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Sporting KC drops match at Seattle

Sporting Kansas City’s club-record 13-game unbeaten streak across all competitions was snapped in a 1-0 defeat to Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday afternoon.

Clint Dempsey headed home the match-winner in the 36th minute to send Sounders FC (10-7-7, 37 points) into a first-place tie atop the Western Conference standings with Sporting Kansas City (9-5-10, 37 points). Saturday’s result put an end to Seattle’s six-game regular-season winless drought against manager Peter Vermes’ men, who suffered their first loss since May 27.

A third game in seven days prompted Vermes to reshuffle his lineup, which featured seven changes from Wednesday’s grueling shootout victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals.

Holding midfielder James Musa – who signed for the club just 24 hours earlier from the Swope Park Rangers – was thrust into the fold for his MLS debut, joining Jimmy Medranda and Soni Mustivar in the center of the park. Gerso and Daniel Salloi flanked Soony Saad up top, while goalkeeper Tim Melia was shielded by a back four of Saad Abdul-Salaam, Erik Palmer-Brown, Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic.

Seattle’s midfield talisman Nicolas Lodeiro created two chances within the first 10 minutes, seeing his corner kick nodded wide by Chad Marshall before teeing up Dempsey for a low drive that Melia corralled comfortably. Sporting KC threatened at the opposite end shortly thereafter, as Saad’s corner delivery caromed off the back of Marshall’s head and glanced just beyond the far left post.

Left back Joevin Jones launched forward in the 22nd minute in search of his 11th assist of the campaign, but his cutback pass across the face of goal was dragged wayward by Cristian Roldan near the top of the box.

The visitors were pegged back nine minutes before intermission when a pair of U.S. internationals combined for the decisive strike. Jordan Morris exploited open space on the right wing and clipped a far-post cross to Dempsey, who directed a strong header into the right corner of the net for his 50th career goal as a Sounder, including his sixth in his last five MLS matches. The play ended Seattle’s 363-minute regular-season scoreless spell against Sporting KC dating back to September 2015.

Jones buccaneered down the left flank once more in the 42nd minute, combining neatly with Lodeiro on the edge of the box, but the midfielder’s thunderous attempt whistled wide of the woodwork and into the side netting.

A tame start to the second half saw neither side threaten until the 62nd minute when substitute Latif Blessing dashed into the penalty area, cut the ball onto his left foot and blasted a near-post effort that was snagged cleanly by Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Seven minutes later, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso – making his first Seattle appearance since July 4 due to injury – unleashed a fierce, 30-yard volley that dipped narrowly wide.

Sporting Kansas City’s best opportunity to equalize came in the 74th minute. A deflected shot from Cristian Lobato fell to substitute Benny Feilhaber with his back toward goal. Feilhaber promptly teed up the trailing Musa, whose low, left-footed strike from 22 yards was smothered by the sprawling Frei.

Jones continued to probe the Sporting KC defense from the left channel, whipping a delightful cross to Roldan in the 83rd minute only for Melia to make a routine save off the header. Melia produced another stop two minutes later, blocking Lodeiro’s venomous effort from a tight angle.

Sporting Kansas City will now rest and recover ahead of next Saturday’s pivotal home test against FC Dallas. The Western Conference clash will kick off at 7:30 p.m., and a limited number of tickets are available at SeatGeek.com as world-class Children’s Mercy Park looks to sell out its 100th consecutive MLS match dating back to April 2012.

– Story from Sporting KC

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First-place Sporting KC to visit MLS Cup champion Seattle Saturday afternoon

Two MLS heavyweights collide Saturday when Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City (9-4-10, 37 points) travel to face reigning MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC (9-7-7, 34 points) at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Central Time with three hours of live television coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus.

Local radio broadcasts of Saturday’s marquee matchup will air on ESPN 99.3 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), while FOX Sports GO will provide a live stream for all pay-TV subscribers who receive FOX Sports Kansas City or FOX Sports Midwest. The Sporting KC Uphoria mobile app will also give live updates throughout the afternoon.

Saturday’s contest could go a long way in deciding the final postseason picture in the Western Conference. Sporting Kansas City currently holds the top spot on 37 points, while Seattle is three points behind and in a remarkable four-way tie for second place. A win would separate Sporting KC from the logjam below, while a loss would result in Seattle taking first place by virtue of more wins.

When Sporting Kansas City takes to the turf on Saturday, the team will be less than 72 hours removed from a thrilling 5-4 penalty shootout win over the San Jose Earthquakes in Wednesday’s pulsating U.S. Open Cup semifinal at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Danny Hoesen fired the Earthquakes into an early lead, but forward Diego Rubio equalized in the 32nd minute as Sporting KC racked up 31 shot attempts and enjoyed 67 percent of possession during a thoroughly dominant performance.

Following a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes, goalkeeper Tim Melia made two decisive saves in the shootout to vault Sporting Kansas City into the Open Cup Final – its third such appearance in six seasons – which will take place Sept. 20 at Children’s Mercy Park.

Manager Peter Vermes’ men are in the middle of a club-record 13-game unbeaten streak in all competitions since the start of June, recording six wins and seven draws. The 13-match run equals the initial record set in 2012, a season that saw Sporting Kansas City lift the Open Cup and finish atop the Eastern Conference standings.

In order to keep their undefeated streak alive, Sporting Kansas City will have to take down a Sounders FC outfit that has found its form during the summer months.

Head coach Brian Schmetzer’s men are 4-0-3 in their last seven MLS matches, including a 4-0 thrashing of Minnesota United FC last Saturday that featured a brace from Clint Dempsey and additional goals from Will Bruin and Jordan Morris. The victory marked the fourth time in five games that Seattle has bagged at least three goals in a league fixture.

The Rave Green have compiled an impressive 17-9-11 regular season record since Schmetzer took the helm in July 2016. His appointment as head coach coincided with the arrival of designated player Nicolas Lodeiro, who helped spur Seattle to last year’s MLS Cup title and has three goals and eight assists to his name in 2017. U.S. international duo Dempsey (nine goals) and Morris (three goals) offer unquestioned quality, though the contributions of Will Bruin (eight goals) and Cristian Roldan (five goals, two assists) shouldn’t go overlooked.

Defensively, the Sounders have hit an extra gear over the last fortnight. Anchored by center backs Chad Marshall and Roman Torres, the team has recorded three consecutive clean sheets in league play – their longest shutout streak of the year. Left back Joevin Jones has blossomed into one of the most dynamic defenders in the league, sitting tied for second in MLS with 10 assists.

These teams have shared a dramatic head-to-head history over the years, with recent regular season results favoring Sporting KC. Vermes’ side is 4-0-2 against Seattle over the last six regular season meetings since 2015 – including a rampant 3-0 triumph on May 17 at Children’s Mercy Park, highlighted by Gerso’s historic second-half hat-trick.

Melia has particularly relished the matchup, posting a 4-0-1 regular season record versus Seattle with zero goals allowed over 450 minutes of action. The Sounders owned the series from 2009-2014, going 7-1-1 with five victories being decided in second-half stoppage time.

Saturday also serves as a rematch of the 2016 Western Conference Knockout Round, marking the first time Sporting KC has visited CenturyLink Field since the fiercely contested playoff match last October.

Sporting KC finished the game with seven shots on goal to Seattle’s one, but the hosts converted their lone attempt on target when Nelson Valdez headed home in the 88th minute to send Sporting KC packing at the knockout round stage for the third straight year. Replays indicated that Valdez was offside when his goal was scored, adding further frustration to a heartbreaking defeat for the visitors.

Sporting Kansas City enters the contest with no new injury concerns to report, though the club will remain without forward Cameron Porter, who underwent season-ending ankle surgery earlier this week.

On the Seattle sideline, domineering defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is listed as questionable with a knee sprain, while veteran defender Brad Evans is ruled out with a lower back ailment.

– Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting KC signs Musa from Swope Park Rangers

Sporting Kansas City announced Friday that the club has signed 25-year-old midfielder James Musa from USL affiliate Swope Park Rangers.

Musa, a citizen of the United Kingdom and New Zealand, will occupy an international roster spot on Sporting Kansas City’s roster. He has signed an MLS contract for the remainder of the 2017 season with options for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Capable of playing as a holding midfielder or center back, Musa becomes the fourth player to sign for Sporting Kansas City from the Swope Park Rangers, following goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas and defenders Amer Didic and Tyler Pasher.

“When we brought James in for the Swope Park Rangers, we brought him here for two purposes,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “One was as a central defender and the other was a defensive midfielder. We wanted to see if he would adapt to our model of play, and I think he has progressed tremendously through the course of the year with the Rangers. We think this is a testament to the system that we have put in place where players can sign and play for the Rangers while continuing to develop toward a first-team contract. James is a very good decision-maker and reads the game well. He brings a lot of really good qualities to our team and we look forward to integrating him into the squad.”

“It was one of my goals in signing for Swope Park Rangers to progress to the first team,” Musa said. “I’ve done that and am very happy. I just want to thank Peter Vermes, Mike Jacobs and the entire organization for giving me this opportunity to represent Kansas City and play for Sporting KC. I can’t wait to get started and play in front of this amazing fan base.”

Musa joined the Rangers last November and has featured regularly for an SPR side that currently occupies third place in the United Soccer League’s Western Conference. The midfielder has played the full 90 minutes in all 18 appearances and ranks third on the USL charts in total passes. He also leads the team with 49 interceptions and 33 aerial duels won, having played every minute during the Rangers’ five-game shutout streak from June 30 to July 20.

Prior to linking up with SPR, Musa spent the 2015 and 2016 USL seasons with Saint Louis FC, where he totaled five goals and three assists in 51 matches as a consistent starter.

Born in Plymouth, England, Musa moved to New Zealand at the age of six and turned professional in 2010 when he signed with Wellington Phoenix FC, a New Zealand-based club that competes in the Australian A-League. He stayed in New Zealand over the next two seasons, playing for Waitakere City in 2011 and Team Wellington in 2012.

Musa entered the international scene in 2011, representing the New Zealand U-20s with three starts at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia. The following summer, he was selected to the New Zealand U-23s to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. His strong showing at the tournament attracted interest from English club Fulham. After a successful trial, Musa signed for Fulham and went on loan to English side Hereford United in January 2013.

Musa returned to New Zealand in summer 2013 for another stint with Team Wellington before joining Australian club South Melbourne in 2014. His third spell at Team Wellington was short-lived, as he moved to the U.S. to sign for Saint Louis FC ahead of the team’s inaugural 2015 campaign.

Musa has earned one cap for New Zealand’s senior national team, appearing in a friendly against South Africa on May 30, 2014.

– Story from Sporting KC

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