Rested Sporting KC visit struggling San Jose
Reuters
April 19, 2019
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For the second time all season, Sporting Kansas City will play a match following a full week's rest, as they travel to San Jose for a matchup with the struggling Earthquakes (1-5-0, 3 points).

Sporting KC (2-1-3, 9 points) has a five-match MLS unbeaten streak after escaping with a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday. A goal in stoppage time by 16-year-old Gianluca Busio helped Sporting avoid a rare home loss.

Busio is the youngest MLS player to score in consecutive regular-season matches -- doing so in three straight games since March 30. He can join Preki and Dom Dwyer as the only players in Sporting history to score in four straight league matches.

Sporting advanced to the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals -- the best showing of any MLS team in the tournament -- but in the process played several mid-week matches. The club already has played a league-high 12 matches in all competitions since the final week of February. Currently occupying the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings, SKC now will focus full attention on the MLS regular-season campaign.

Krisztian Nemeth (eight goals), and Gerso Fernandes and Johnny Russell (four goals each) lead a prolific front line that has already combined for 16 goals in all competitions this season for SKC.

Following a historically bad 2018 campaign, the Earthquakes have started slowly in 2019 as well. Their 5-26-9 record is the worst in MLS since 2018 began.

However, things may be changing. The Earthquakes are under new leadership this season with first-year head coach Matias Almeyda, who guided Liga MX side Chivas de Guadalajara to the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League title.

Almeyda's high-pressure, man-marking system has helped San Jose gain momentum recently. The Earthquakes secured a 3-0 home victory over the Portland Timbers prior to a 2-1 defeat at the Houston Dynamo.

"I think we need to keep improving defensively," Almeyda said of his club's recent progress. "We need to be more concentrated, especially when the opponents have strong characteristics. We can't focus for 45 minutes and then forget about our plan the rest of the match."

San Jose is anxious to see if that progress continues against Sporting.

"The players believe they can play a great match against a strong opponent," Almeyda said. "They need to enjoy playing this match, and they need to believe they can go up against the best or weakest team."

Sporting manager Peter Vermes knows a road victory at San Jose will not come easily.

"Every team is tough to play against," he said. "I always tell our guys, You have to expect everybody's A-game.' There's too much parity in our league not to expect that."

--Field Level Media

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