A pair of teams on opposite sides of the red line square off Sunday as Sporting Kansas City (9-10-4, 31 points) is host to the defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers (7-7-8, 29 points) at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.
The all-important Western Conference clash will kick off at 1:01 p.m. before a national television audience on FOX and FOX Deportes. Local radio broadcasts will air on 99.3 FM and 1340 AM, and in-game updates will also be provided at SportingKC.com/gameon and through the club’s official mobile app Sporting KC Uphoria.
A limited number of tickets for Sunday’s match are still available at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL. Supporters are encouraged to arrive promptly for the earliest MLS kickoff in Children’s Mercy Park history, with the stadium bowl opening at 11:30 a.m. ahead of the 1:01 p.m. start.
Sunday marks the first meeting between the sides since they met in the 2015 Western Conference Knockout Round, an all-time classic that saw Portland oust Sporting KC in an 11-round penalty shootout after a pulsating 2-2 draw.
Fourth-place Sporting Kansas City (9-10-4, 31 points) has rattled off four straight home wins since June 19, including a 3-0 demolition of Seattle Sounders FC last weekend.
Forward Dom Dwyer led the way with a brace, taking his team-leading total to 10 goals in 2016, as Peter Vermes’ men jumped back into playoff position in the Western Conference.
The club has scored three goals in three straight regular season home games for the first time in club history, an encouraging sign for a team that struggled in the attacking third for much of April and May.
Defensively, Sporting KC stifled Seattle to the tune of an MLS-record low one shot attempt, becoming the first MLS team ever to limit two opponents to a single shot in the same season.
While Sporting Kansas City has been hot at home, the Timbers have labored on their travels. Caleb Porter’s side is 0-4-6 away from home in 2016 and hasn’t won a road game since defeating Columbus Crew SC in the 2015 MLS Cup.
Coming off a 2-1 home loss to LA Galaxy last Saturday that snapped a nine-game unbeaten run, Portland will also be without both first-choice center backs on Sunday. Veteran Nat Borchers ruptured his Achilles against the Galaxy and will miss the remainder of 2016, while defensive cog Liam Ridgewell is out with a calf strain.
Sitting seventh in the West and just one point outside of the playoff picture, Portland boasts one of the most dangerous attacking duos in MLS.
Target forward Fanendo Adi has a team-best 10 goals, while midfield talisman Diego Valeri has scored nine times himself and leads the league with 70 chances created. Dynamic midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who broke into the U.S. Men’s National Team this summer, will join the team in Kansas City after competing in the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game on Thursday in San Jose.
Vermes will seek his 100th regular season coaching win on Sunday against a team that has failed to score on Sporting KC in the last four regular season meetings. Portland is in a 392-minute dry spell in the series dating back to April 2013, with Sporting KC claiming two wins and two draws during the stretch.
Despite its recent struggles in the matchup, Portland will be encouraged by the fact that the home side in the series is winless in seven straight games across all competitions. This includes the epic 2015 Western Conference Knockout Round match at Providence Park last October, which ended in a 2-2 stalemate through 120 minutes. The Timbers went on to win the longest shootout in MLS postseason history, ending Sporting KC’s season and setting the stage for a run to the MLS Cup championship.
The clubs met three times during the 2015 regular season, playing to a pair of 0-0 draws before Sporting KC scraped a 1-0 road win on Oct. 3. Tim Melia was the star of the show in the latter two meetings at Providence Park, making 13 combined saves.
In addition to missing Borchers and Ridgewell on Sunday, Portland will likely be without forward Darren Mattocks due to a hamstring injury. Matt Besler (MCL strain), Brad Davis (calf strain) and Justin Mapp remain sidelined for Sporting Kansas City, while four players are listed as questionable: Nuno Coelho (hamstring strain), Paulo Nagamura (quad strain), Jacob Peterson (calf strain) and Graham Zusi (hamstring strain).
– Story from Sporting KC