With a 10-day break in the rearview mirror, Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City (7-2-2, 23 points) return to action Sunday against Minnesota United FC (4-7-0, 12 points) at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. with three hours of live coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus and FOX Sports Midwest Plus. The match will also stream live on FOX Sports GO for viewers in the FOX Sports Midwest television footprint and on ESPN+ for viewers elsewhere across the U.S. Local radio broadcasts will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish), while the Sporting KC Uphoria mobile app will provide live updates.
Entering the weekend with a three-point lead at the top of the West, Sporting KC is coming off a statement victory against Supporters’ Shield leaders Atlanta United FC on May 9.
Manager Peter Vermes’ men dealt Atlanta their first-ever regular season defeat at Mercedes-Benz Stadium after Daniel Salloi and Gerso Fernandes struck second-half goals to pace a momentous 2-0 triumph. The result gave Sporting KC its third away win of the season, already eclipsing last year’s total of two, and ultimately led to MLS Team of the Week honors for goalkeeper Tim Melia, defender Ike Opara and holding midfielder Ilie, who assisted both goals.
Melia, Opara and Ilie played a leading role last week in helping Sporting KC to their league-leading fifth shutout of the season. After leaking nine goals across its first four matches of 2018, the club has reclaimed its vintage defensive form with just three goals allowed in its last seven games.
On the offensive end, 21-year-old Salloi has scored in two straight games and leads MLS with a combined five goals (three) and assists (two) of the game-winning variety. On Salloi’s opposite flank, Johnny Russell has enjoyed a strong start to his first MLS campaign with a team-best five goals plus two assists.
Minnesota United FC endured a patchy inaugural season in MLS last year, finishing 10 points below the playoff line while conceding a league-high 70 goals. The Loons began 2018 in encouraging manner, winning two of their first three fixtures, but head coach Adrian Heath’s side has lost six of eight since then to stunt momentum of a breakout sophomore campaign. To complicate matters, two of Heath’s most valuable attacking pieces – playmaking midfielder Kevin Molino and winger Ethan Finlay – will both miss the rest of 2018 with knee injuries.
The Loons will hope to bounce back from last Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes in which forward Christian Ramirez conjured a brilliant first-half strike. Ramirez had an excellent debut MLS season in 2017 with 14 goals, including one against Sporting KC just over a year ago.
Minnesota’s attack was further bolstered in late March when Colombian forward Darwin Quintero became the team’s first-ever designated player, having scored more than 100 professional goals across Europe, South America and Mexico in the previous dozen years. The 30-year-old forward, who arrives from Concacaf powerhouse Club America, has two goals and one assist in six MLS appearances this year.
For all of the struggles that Minnesota experienced in 2017, the club fared well against Sporting KC on home turf. Vermes’ team went 0-1-1 on their travels to TCF Bank Stadium last season, falling 2-0 in May before drawing 1-1 in October.
Ramirez and Abu Danladi paced a routine victory with first-half goals in the first meeting, while the latter contest saw defender Brent Kallman score late to deny Sporting KC a win after Diego Rubio had given the visitors a 1-0 lead on the stroke of intermission.
Sporting KC dominated the Loons on each of their visits to Children’s Mercy Park last year, prevailing 3-0 on June 3 and cruising 4-0 in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on June 14.
– Story from Sporting KC