Match Preview

MATCH PREVIEW: Earthquakes face Sporting Kansas City in enemy territory


The San Jose Earthquakes will hit the road to face Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, March 16. Kickoff from Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, takes place at 5:30 p.m. PT and can be streamed for free on Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass, as well as on local radio via 810 AM The Spread (English), and 1370 AM La Kaliente (Spanish).

A hungry San Jose squad returns to Kansas City for the first time since last season’s playoff clash. Head coach Luchi Gonzalez guided the Quakes to their first playoff appearance in three years, facing SKC in the Wild Card Round. After battling to a scoreless draw through regulation, the Black and Blue lost the penalty shootout in heartbreaking fashion, 4-2. 

In 66 MLS regular-season matchups, the Quakes hold a 26-30-10 record against Sporting KC. The Western Conference rivalry dates to the first tilt in 1996, when San Jose was known as the Clash and Sporting used the Wiz moniker. Both teams traded hard blows in the 2023 regular season, with San Jose earning a convincing 3-0 home victory on April 15 but falling by an identical 3-0 margin in Kansas City on August 26.

Children’s Mercy Park has remained a fortress for opposing teams, especially for the Quakes as the last time San Jose earned three points in Kansas was a 5-0 result on August 19, 2015. To this day, the result remains the largest margin of victory for either side in the series.

Indisputably, San Jose is looking to get back on track, but there’s still enough runway on the road to the playoffs for the Quakes to get their wheels on the tarmac. With the urgency to win in enemy territory evident this Saturday, Gonzalez shared his optimism that the team is in good spirits and ready for a result. 

“We’re not satisfied with the results, even if we have had some good moments,” said Gonzalez in Wednesday’s virtual press conference. “We know that we can perform at a higher level consistently, but this isn’t about a complete switch overnight. We’re learning some hard lessons early that are going to teach us and make us better…The morale is good. The guys are flying today. They’re competing and trying to make an impact. That is the response that you want to see from the group, but then you’ve got to be ready to do that tomorrow and the week after.”

Leading the current squad in career goal contributions against SKC is forward Cristian Espinoza (1g/3a). The club’s all-time assist record holder and 2023 MLS All-Star proved a key factor in last season’s playoff qualification, amassing a career-high 13 goals and 13 assists. He echoes the sentiment that turning things around will require some hard work, but that this week’s training has brought gains on the field.

“Obviously, we need to improve as a team in a couple things, like collectively in transitions, both in offensive and defensive transitions,” said Espinoza. “It is very important that we can work on those things collectively. It’s important not to be too separated between lines. We can see in the video that teams find spaces too easily sometimes. I’m really happy with how we are working this week and how we are preparing.”

Meanwhile, Sporting KC have also yet to find the win column in 2024 after earning three consecutive draws against Houston Dynamo FC (1-1), the Philadelphia Union (1-1), and most recently against Los Angeles FC (0-0). Midfielders Erik Thommy and Remi Walter hold one goal apiece to account for Sporting’s scoring this season, and veteran shot-stopper Tim Melia returns between the posts after last weekend’s shutout of a star-studded LAFC. 

If Quakes fans can take any solace from the team’s early struggles, SKC went winless in its first 10 games last season (0-7-3) before going on a historic run to make the playoffs.