Santa Clara, CA – Eastern-Conference leading Sporting Kansas hopeful San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, with both sides eager to take three points.
Sporting claimed the lead in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew on Wednesday, the first time that the club has held sole possession of the top spot all season.
The game-winner came with 16 minutes left in the match, when a long throw-in from Matt Besler was met by Julius James, who headed the ball into his own net. It was the fifth time this season that Sporting has scored as a direct result of a long throw-in from Besler.
"It's too dangerous with the guys that we have on or team [to stop]," said Sporting manager Peter Vermes. "It's C.J. and Kei and Collin comes forward, even Julio (Cesar) at times. That's a lot of guys that can get in the box. It's a weapon. It's almost like a corner kick for us. We're going to take those as many times as we can."
Vermes was full of praise for his young team after the victory, and said that while he was impressed with how they coped with pressure, they must take care of business against San Jose.
"We have a young team, and this victory will pay major dividends down the road," said Sporting manager Peter Vermes. "This isn't a type of game that many of the guys on the field tonight have ever been in before and they did well to steal the moment. We haven't achieved anything yet, we have San Jose in front of us we have to get prepared for."
San Jose, meanwhile, has struggled over the last few months, taking just one win since June 11. It has a 1-7-9 record since that date.
The Earthquakes sit in eighth place in the Western Conference with 31 points on the season, eight points of the last wild card spot, which is held by Red Bull New York.
San Jose could still make the postseason, but a loss to Sporting paired with other results would see the 'Quakes crash out of contention.
"Numerically, we're still in it," Earthquakes defender Steven Beitashour said. "There's a bunch of teams sitting on the playoff bubble, at the bottom of the pack. Just having that slight possibility keeps us going. The players, the coaches won't let us quit. Even if we were out of it, don't think the personnel would quit."
Sporting defeated San Jose on June 17 this season in the second match ever held at Livestrong Sporting Park. C.J. Sapong recorded the lone goal in the affair, thereby scoring the first goal ever at Sporting's new stadium.