Andres Imperiale takes unlikely star turn in San Jose's tie vs. Sporting KC

SAN JOSE, Calif. – By the end of the San Jose Earthquakes0-0 tie with Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night, Andres Imperiale was sporting a blank, generic jersey with neither a name nor a number on the back. 

It was a costume change necessitated by a late-game collision that left his nose dripping blood all over his own personalized shirt, and an act that served a fitting metaphor for the Quakes’ resilience on Saturday. With injuries, suspensions and international duty limiting San Jose to just 16 players in uniform, Imperiale made his first league appearance of the season – yet the no-name, no-nonsense Quakes were able to scrape out a point against the Western Conference leaders.

“We really used the depths of our roster coming into this game, so we’ll take a point and look forward to next week,” Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear said. “You always want more when you’re playing. But overall, maybe later on tonight when I sit back, maybe I’ll go, ‘OK, that wasn’t so bad.’”

Imperiale was a center back of last resort for Kinnear, with Florian Jungwirth suffering a sprained ankle midweek in the Quakes’ 1-0 US Open Cup win against the San Francisco Deltas and Panamanian international Harold Cummings out for the season due to a fractured fibula and high ankle sprain. The 30-year-old Argentine nonetheless provided a steadying influence at the back despite re-injuring his nose, which he had surgery on two years ago, in an 88th minute clash of heads with SKC’s Diego Rubio.

“Until this week, it was a tough season for me,” admitted Imperiale, who signed with the Quakes last year. “I didn’t get minutes and I tried to be ready, always doing the extra training and tried to be 100 percent for these chances.”

Imperiale delivered six tackles, four interceptions and seven recoveries, all team highs as the Quakes withstood 13 shots from SKC. Key plays included a 60th minute recovery to break up a pass that would otherwise have put Dom Dwyer in on goal and a great job sealing off Gerso Fernandes in the 69th minute, turning the winger’s run to the byline into a harmless goal kick instead of a dangerous cross.

“He’s one of those players that is the ultimate professional,” said Quakes goalkeeper David Bingham, who erased Imperiale’s biggest mistake by blocking Graham Zusi’s shot in the 94th minute. “We know he’s disappointed not to be getting as many minutes as he wants, but he comes even every day with the right attitude, always happy to be here and when he gets his chance to play, he does well. We know he has quality on the ball, and that’s an asset for us, so it’s just a testament to all the guys with the right mentality coming in and coming out.”

If San Jose are going to return to the playoffs this year for the first time since 2012, they will have to survive another congested stretch on their schedule: four games in 11 days, including a US Open Cup round-of-16 match against Seattle, a cross-country trip to Atlanta and the annual Stanford Stadium edition of the California Clasico, where fireworks are promised off the pitch and likely will come on it against archrival LA Galaxy.

Imperiale could be called upon again during that timeframe, assuming he’s healthy enough; he said X-rays would be taken in a few days to help “decide what we’re going to do” about his nose.

“It was a tough game, and I think we didn’t play our best game,” Imperiale said. “We didn’t create a lot of chances up front, but we played against the best team, in my opinion, in the league. We have to move on, we have another two games ahead at home and we have to collect points because we have to step up in the standings.”