Colorado Rapids to visit Sporting KC on Saturday

Children’s Mercy Park will play host to its next-to-last match of the 2019 MLS regular season on Saturday when Sporting Kansas City (10-13-7, 37 points) duels the Colorado Rapids (10-15-6, 36 points) in a pivotal Western Conference encounter at 7:30 p.m. in Kansas City, Kansas.

Tickets remain available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting and The Victory Project celebrate Kick Childhood Cancer Night with several initiatives aimed to increase pediatric cancer awareness.

FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO will carry three hours of live coverage beginning at 7 p.m., while listeners can catch the action live on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM with The Final Whistle immediately following on 810 WHB.

Sporting and Colorado enter the weekend in desperate need of points, sitting on the wrong side of the playoff line in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

Manager Peter Vermes has led Sporting to eight straight postseason appearances, amassing four major titles during that time, and now his team must erase a seven-point gap over the last four matches to climb into playoff positioning as a top-seven finisher in the West.

The Rapids, meanwhile, have made just two playoff trips in the last seven seasons and appear likely to miss out for the third straight year in 2019.

Midfielder Felipe Gutierrez provided an emphatic spark for Sporting in last Sunday’s road loss to the LA Galaxy, striking twice to take his team-leading total to 12 goals.

In addition to becoming the fourth Kansas City midfielder to hit double-digit goals in a single regular season, the Chilean international is now the first MLS player during the Opta era (2010-present) to record at least 10 goals and win at least 50 tackles in a single regular season.

The Rapids endured a tumultuous spring, stuttering to a 0-9-2 start and parting ways with manager Anthony Hudson.

Colorado steadied the proverbial ship under interim boss and former MLS veteran Conor Casey before catching fire under recently appointed head coach Robin Fraser, who won his first three games in charge before the Rapids lost 3-2 last Sunday at Toronto FC.

Colorado has posted a formidable 10-6-4 record and a plus-seven goal differential since May 19.

In attack, Colorado is led by a pair of former Sporting forwards who have combined for 20 goals this season. Kei Kamara (11 goals) and Diego Rubio (nine goals) have shouldered the scoring load for a side that has scored 51 times in 2019, good for the second most in club history.

In 30 regular season home games against Colorado, Sporting are 20-5-5 all-time with 62 goals scored and 30 conceded — including wins over the Rapids in each of their last two visits.

The clubs most recently met on March 17 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, scrapping to a 1-1 tie that saw Rubio score against his former club in the 54th minute before Johnny Russell drew Sporting level with a brilliant 88th-minute free kick.

Two Sporting Kansas City veterans are in contention to reach major career milestones on Saturday night. Captain Matt Besler is one shy of his 300th MLS appearance for the club including playoffs — looking to become the first-ever player to hit that mark — while goalkeeper Tim Melia is one shutout shy of passing Jimmy Nielsen for the most in club regular season history at 46.

Sporting and The Victory Project have championed numerous causes during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, many of which will be executed on Saturday. At the forefront, the new Kick Childhood Cancer training top and scarf of the match will be available to purchase at all SportingStyle locations inside the stadium.

During pregame, Sporting players will wear the gold training tops in warmups before The Victory Project honors more than 50 families affected by pediatric cancer in a special ceremony on the field.

To amplify the #KickChildhoodCancer theme, Sporting will unveil superhero starting lineup and videoboard graphics throughout the evening. Additionally, The Victory Project tent will distribute free Kick Childhood Cancer superhero posters before kickoff while supplies last.

Supporters watching from home will have the opportunity to participate in The Victory Project’s online auction, which will launch Saturday in conjunction with the match broadcast on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus. The auction will remain open through Oct. 1 with a variety of autographed Sporting merchandise, framed memorabilia and VIP experiences up for bidding.

Saturday’s match will also be part of MLS WORKS’ league-wide Kick Childhood Cancer campaign featuring special gameday elements such as the Gold adidas Nativo Questra match ball plus gold corner flags, goal nets, armbands and commemorative jersey patches.

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Sporting KC falls 7-2 to LA Galaxy

Sporting Kansas City (10-13-7, 37 points) suffered a 7-2 defeat on the road to the LA Galaxy (14-13-3, 45 points) at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on Sunday night.

Leading scorer Felipe Gutierrez tallied Sporting’s two goals, while Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted a hat trick for the hosts.

Sporting almost took the lead in just the third minute as Gutierrez latched onto a loose ball 25 yards from goal and his speculative strike took a heavy deflection off a Galaxy defender – wrong-footing goalkeeper David Bingham – but the ball ricocheted off the post and out.

Four minutes later, Johnny Russell’s free kick delivery found Erik Hurtado at the near post who headed narrowly over the bar.

The Galaxy threatened for the first time in the 11th minute as legendary striker Ibrahimovic found a yard of space in the area, but his looping header was tipped over the bar by Tim Melia.

In the 19th minute, Cristian Pavon found himself isolated with Graham Zusi and cut inside the Sporting right back before lashing an effort on target that Melia dove to his left to beat away for a corner.

Sporting KC took the lead in the 24th minute with an expertly taken goal from leading scorer Gutierrez.

Graham Zusi’s whipped in delivery was just taken out of Gutierrez’s reach by Daniel Steres. The ball fell to Gerso Fernandes who immediately fed the Chilean once again, and Gutierrez cut inside of his marker before finishing into the corner for his 11th goal of the MLS campaign to make the score 1-0.

Sporting almost doubled the lead in the 25th minute as Zusi sprung Gerso in behind the Galaxy defense, and after a stellar first touch, Gerso’s right-footed effort was well blocked by Bingham.

Two minutes later, Russell struck a knuckling free kick that had Bingham stretching but shaved the top of the crossbar on its way over.

The Galaxy were awarded a lifeline in the 32nd minute when Matt Besler was called for a handball in the area, and referee Ted Unkel pointed to the penalty spot.

Ibrahimovic stepped up and Melia denied his initial attempt, but the rebound fell back to the Swede who tapped home his 24th goal of the season to make it 1-1. Melia has now faced three penalties in 2019 and has saved each one.

In the 34th minute, a long ball over the top found Pavon who spun away from Graham Smith before curling a stunning effort that clipped the outside of the post before heading out for a goal kick.

Melia kept the score level in the second minute of first-half stoppage time as Ibrahimovic slid through Sebastian Lletget but the Sporting KC goalkeeper blocked his low effort with his legs.

The Galaxy opened the second half in roaring fashion, taking the lead in the 48th minute when Joe Corona latched onto Cristian Pavon’s lofted cross from the left and heading into the corner to make the score 2-1.

Smith almost pulled Sporting level in the 50th minute when he reached a Luis Martins cross from the left wing and nodded an effort toward the near post that Bingham clawed away on his goal.

Instead it was the Galaxy that pulled even further ahead in 51st minute, as Ibrahimovic controlled Rolf Feltscher’s cross from the right wing, spun away from his marker and fired into the top corner for his 25th goal of the season to make the score 3-1 in favor of the hosts.

Sporting almost pulled back within one in the 56th minute as Gutierrez’s stunning ball over the top found Gerso, who in turn whipped in a near-post cross into the path of Erik Hurtado whose flicked attempt flashed narrowly over the bar.

In the 63rd minute, Gerso’s low cross narrowly evaded Hurtado in front of goal, before Gutierrez slipped Hurtado in on goal seconds later and his powerful shot was blocked by Bingham.

Sporting kept pressing the issue and went close once again in the 68th minute as substitute Gianluca Busio – on the field for all of a minute – latched onto Hurtado’s layoff but sent his shot inches wide of the post from 12 yards out.

As the story went, the Galaxy punished Sporting’s missed chances almost immediately as Pavon broke away at the visitor’s backline and despite being denied by Melia, the ball fell perfectly to Uriel Antuna who tapped home his fourth of the year to make it 4-1.

In the 77th minute, the Galaxy piled on a fifth goal as Lletget found space inside the Sporting area and headed home Dave Romney’s cross to make it 5-1.

Five turned into six for LA two minutes later as Lletget doubled his tally for the day by nodding home Antuna’s delivery across the face of goal. Ibrahimovic completed his hat trick in the 85th minute after converting after being set up by Efrain Alvarez in the 85th minute.

Sporting pulled one back in the wild affair one minute later as Busio laid a ball across to Gutierrez whose powerful attempt from 25 yards took a slight deflection off Daniel Steres and flew in off the underside of the crossbar and into the net for his 12th goal of the campaign to make it 7-2.

Sporting almost grabbed another in the 88th minute as Gutierrez’s cross was met by Daniel Salloi at the far post, but his downward header was expertly saved by Bingham as Sporting was unable to draw any closer on the night.

Sporting Kansas City heads home next weekend to play host to the Colorado Rapids at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday, Sept. 21. The contest will kick off at 7:30 p.m. with live coverage on FOX Sports KC Plus, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.

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Sporting KC tries to keep playoff hopes alive with a win tonight in LA

Two founding members of Major League Soccer hoping to preserve their playoff hopes will square off Sunday night when Sporting Kansas City (10-12-7, 37 points) visits the LA Galaxy (13-13-3, 42 points) at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

The all-important Western Conference clash will kick off at 9 p.m. with national television coverage on FS1 and FOX Deportes. Fans can also catch the game live locally on ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and La Grande 13480 AM (Spanish) or stream the action via the FOX Sports App. Additional in-game updates will be available on the Sporting KC App, and the Final Whistle postgame show will air immediately afterward on ESPN 94.5 FM.

LA and Sporting enter Week 28 as the two teams immediately below the playoff line in an ultra-competitive Western Conference race. The Galaxy, having missed the postseason in 2017 and 2018, are a point behind FC Dallas for the seventh and final playoff spot in the West.

On the opposite side, Sporting’s club-record eight-year postseason streak is under threat: Manager Peter Vermes’ men are six points shy of seventh place heading into the final five league games of the 2019.

Sporting is looking to rebound from a last-gasp 2-1 loss at the Portland Timbers last Saturday, which snapped a three-game winning streak and kept the club rooted in ninth place.

Benny Feilhaber notched an MLS Goal of the Week winner near the hour-mark to give the visitors a 1-0 lead, but Portland rallied behind a Jeremy Ebobisse equalizer and a 94th-minute winner from substitute Brian Fernandez.

The setback in Portland saw Sporting play without five players who were on international duty as well as leading scorer Felipe Gutierrez, who served a one-game suspension for caution accumulation.

Gutierrez and Sporting’s international contingent—namely Johnny Russell (nine goals), Krisztian Nemeth (seven goals), Botond Barath, Nico Hasler and Gianluca Busio—will all be available for selection this weekend. Russell and Nemeth rank second and third on Sporting’s MLS scoring charts, while Barath, Hasler and Busio have also served valuably over the course of 2019.

Like Sporting, the Galaxy will aim to put a narrow 2-1 loss behind them on Sunday, having slipped to the upstart Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night.

Giancarlo Gonzalez opened his MLS scoring account in the 82nd minute, drawing LA level shortly after Cole Bassett had headed Colorado ahead, but the hosts surged back in front on a late Nicolas Mezquida penalty kick. With the loss, the Galaxy are now 1-5-2 in their last eight MLS matches since July 27.

Under the guidance of manager and former MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto, LA acquired Argentine international playmaker Cristian Pavon in early August to bolster a team that had risen as high as second place this summer. He played an instrumental role in the club’s 3-3 draw against rivals LAFC on Aug. 25, scoring a goal and assisting another, but the Galaxy have managed just one win in Pavon’s six starts.

For the second straight year, international soccer icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic has carried LA on his shoulders. After netting 22 goals in 2018, the Swede has bagged 23 more this season — good for second place in the Golden Boot race — and has accounted for a remarkable 55 percent of the Galaxy’s goal scoring. His seven game-winning strikes are two more than any other MLS player this season.

Sporting has emerged with two wins and a draw in each of their last three road matches against LA. The stretch began with a 0-0 draw in June 2016 and was followed by a 2-1 triumph in June 2017 and a 2-0 victory in April 2018.

Overall, Sporting is 4-1-4 in the last nine meetings with the Galaxy since October 2015. The lone loss during that stretch came on May 29 of this year when Ibrahimovic and Favio Alvarez paced LA to a 2-0 result and its first victory in Kansas City since 2007.

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