A number of offseason moves including Academy promotions, SuperDraft picks, and TAM signings have made this season’s San Jose Earthquakes deeper and more well-rounded as a squad, but it doesn’t necessarily feel that way heading into tonight’s battle with Sporting Kansas City (kickoff at 5:45pm).
“If you looked at our bench today, you wouldn’t say we had a deep roster,” coach Dominic Kinnear told reporters after their US Open Cup victory over the SF Deltas on Wednesday night. Kinnear had to include two goalkeepers on the bench and also called up loanees from USL affiliate Reno 1868 for the match. He will be forced to take similar shortcuts against SKC, with ten squad members unavailable for the match through suspension, international duty, or injury.
In all, Kinnear is left with exactly enough players to just fill out a full eighteen-man roster. Whether his shorthanded squad will be enough to defeat the best team in the Western Conference is another question.
Of all their absences, there are a few that hurt the most for the Quakes. Center-back stalwart Florian Jungwirth has been ruled out of this weekend’s match with an ankle injury suffered against the Deltas, which will likely reward Andres Imperiale with his first start of the season. Midfielder Fatai Alashe, who is listed as questionable but is expected to be available for selection, could also drop back into the defense in Jungwirth’s stead.
However, Alashe will mostly likely be employed in midfield given the suspension of Darwin Ceren, who was sent off during the Quakes’ 2-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers.
Forward Marco Ureña is also suspended for a subtle kick at Portland goalkeeper Jake Gleeson, which means Tommy Thompson will likely start again in the midfield as Danny Hoesen gets the nod up front.
It will take a strong home performance to get past SKC’s back line, the best in MLS so far this year. Their success has largely been down to defender Ike Opara – with whom the club has allowed just 0.5 goals-per-game – as well as goalkeeper Tim Melia.
The two teams have split their last six meetings with three wins apiece, the most recent meeting going to Sporting 2-1 earlier this season. The Quakes have won just once in their last five matches, but a victory on Saturday would reassert their playoff intentions.