San Jose Earthquakes (6-6-5, 23 points, 6th in West) vs. Kansas City Wizards (5-8-5, 20 poitns, 5th in East), at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
All-time record: Earthquakes lead 19-17-6.
10 pm ET; CSN California, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live
It’s already the middle of August, but this is the first meeting between the two this season. The franchises’ last meeting came on Aug. 22, 2009 when Chris Wondolowski gave the Quakes a 1-0 win with an injury-time strike.
Kansas City have pulled themselves back into playoff contention with two wins and two ties in their last four matches, and hope to keep rolling in Buck Shaw, where the Quakes have not been able to establish much of a home-field advantage.
As for San Jose, with three of their next four games against MLS elite – Los Angeles, New York and Dallas – coach Frank Yallop doesn’t bother to disguise the team's desperation for three points.
Kansas City Wizards
While the Omar Bravo saga continues apace in Kansas City, rookie Teal Bunbury is doing his best to make the Mexican forward superfluous.
The No. 4 pick in this year’s SuperDraft scored his first two MLS goals since returning to the starting lineup on July 14. He bagged a goal in a victory against Columbus, and also found the net once in a win over Toronto.
Looking to connect with Bunbury will be Wizards' dynamic playmaker Ryan Smith, who's been hounding defenses with his devlish speed and fancy footwork since his arrival to the league this season.
With San Jose promising to play a more attacking style, and with center back Ike Opara out and partner Bobby Burling possibly joining him on the bench, there could be holes up the middle for Bunbury and his teammates to work with.
San Jose Earthquakes
The team made sure to have Khari Stephenson come to San Jose last Thursday in order to get the ball rolling on his transfer paperwork, and it’s paid off. His ITC certificate came through in plenty of time for the Jamaican international to be cleared for play against his former MLS team and the Quakes will count on Stephenson to help provide linkage between the midfield and forwards, who have been marooned of late.
With Ramiro Corrales sidelined by a sprained left knee, it appears Yallop’s leading candidate to take over at left back is Bobby Convey, who has starred at left mid this season. That would put the Quakes’ best passer further from the action, but also would bring more offensive firepower to the spot with Joey Gjertsen and Arturo Alvarez starting on the wings.
In the wake of Jon Busch’s howler of an own goal in a 1-0 loss to Colorado, Yallop declined to name a starting goalie as of Thursday, leaving the door open for a possible return by former No. 1 Joe Cannon.
Heroes & Villains
Khari Stephenson vs. Stephane Auvray -- With Stephenson in the fold, the Quakes will look to push the ball forward and generate pressure on the opposition, something that’s been especially lacking in recent weeks. It will be Auvray’s job to prevent that from happening. His tireless, pitiless work on defense might not earn him much time on SportsCenter, but it has earned him plenty of plaudits from KC coach Peter Vermes, who called Auvray “the brain and the engine” of the Wizards’ midfield.
Stat that makes you go, “Hmm...”
The Quakes have scored 20 goals in 17 matches so far this season, putting them in the middle of the MLS pack. Strangely, they have not had a single player record a brace all year long. Eleven different players have scored, but never more than once in a contest.