Archive for Sporting KC

Sporting KC seeks playoff berth in Houston Wednesday

The playoff push in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference reaches a fever pitch Wednesday when second-place Sporting Kansas City (12-7-12, 48 points) visits fifth-place Houston Dynamo (11-10-10, 43 points) in a pivotal showdown at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The regional rivalry’s newest chapter is slated for 7 p.m., with FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO broadcasting three hours of live coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. Local radio broadcasts will air live on ESPN 99.3 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), and the Sporting KC Uphoria app will provide live updates.

A win or a draw against Houston would see Sporting KC clinch a club-record seventh straight appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Manager Peter Vermes’ men sit just three points behind first-place Vancouver Whitecaps FC with a game in hand, knowing a victory would pull them level at the top of the West.

Houston, meanwhile, is part of a wild logjam in which fifth place and eighth place are separated by a single point.

The Dynamo and FC Dallas are tied on 43 points, currently occupying the final two playoff spots in the conference, while Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes lurk closely behind.

Another match rife with postseason implications comes quickly for Sporting KC, who settled for a 1-1 draw at Minnesota United FC on Saturday night.

Forward Diego Rubio fired the visitors ahead in first-half stoppage time, his sixth MLS goal in nine starts since July 1, but Brent Kallman’s 84th-minute header denied Sporting KC what would have been a playoff-clinching victory.

Led by first-year head coach Wilmer Cabrera, Houston approaches the midweek matchup on 10 days’ rest, having earned a 2-1 home win over Minnesota on Sept. 30.

Dynamic forwards Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto scored for the hosts, but both players will miss Wednesday’s contest due to national team commitments with Honduras. The result continued what has been a phenomenal home campaign for the Dynamo, who boast a 10-1-4 MLS record at BBVA Compass Stadium with a conference-best 2.53 goals per game and plus-22 goal differential.

Although Elis and Quioto will be unavailable, leading scorer Erick “Cubo Torres” and primary playmaker Alex will be at Cabrera’s disposal. Torres has tallied 14 goals this season, while Brazilian midfielder Alex tops the club charts with 10 assists and 51 chances created.

Forward Mauro Manotas has also provided a dangerous attacking punch throughout the year, notching nine goals and five assists. On the opposite side of the field, defensive lynchpin Adolfo Machado has played every minute of all 31 MLS matches in 2017.

If any team is capable of stifling Houston’s potent home form, it just might be Sporting KC. Vermes’ side has conceded just 25 goals in 31 games – 10 fewer than any other MLS team – and has proven tough to beat on their travels with six away losses, the fewest in the West.

An important test awaits for either 22-year-old Adrian Zendejas or 31-year-old Andrew Dykstra, as Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia is set to miss two to four weeks after straining his hamstring versus Minnesota.

Melia has started all 36 matches for Sporting Kansas City this year, including five in the club’s run to the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title. His 0.78 goals against average in MLS is the lowest mark in league history among goalkeepers with at least 30 appearances in a single season.

In addition, Sporting KC will remain without U.S. international trio Matt Besler, Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi as the United States concludes World Cup Qualifying on Tuesday night at Trinidad and Tobago.

Forward Soony Saad will also be unavailable while representing Lebanon in 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifying.

The sides most recently met in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on June 28, as Ike Opara and Gerso scored second-half goals to give Sporting KC a 2-0 victory at BBVA Compass Stadium and snap a three-game losing streak in Houston across all competitions.

Sporting KC is winless in its last six regular season meetings against the Dynamo, going 0-3-3 ever since emerging 2-0 winners at BBVA Compass Stadium on June 6, 2014.

– Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting KC now in second place following draw

Sporting Kansas City moved into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference following a 1-1 draw with Minnesota United FC on Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Forward Diego Rubio fired Sporting Kansas City (12-7-12, 48 points) ahead on the stroke of halftime, but an 84th-minute header from Brent Kallman salvaged a point for the Loons (10-16-6, 36 points) and denied manager Peter Vermes’ men what would have been a playoff-clinching victory.

Two changes adorned the Sporting KC lineup on Saturday as Saad Abdul-Salaam and Latif Blessing stepped in for Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber.

Zusi, Feilhaber and captain Matt Besler were three of six players unavailable to Vermes because of national team commitments, having joined the United States for the conclusion of FIFA World Cup Qualifying. Left back Seth Sinovic, meanwhile, reached a major milestone with his 200th competitive appearance for his hometown club.

The season’s fourth meeting between Sporting KC and Minnesota began in pedestrian manner, as neither side was able to test the goalkeeper until the 34th minute when Miguel Ibarra’s long-range banger was tipped over the crossbar by Tim Melia.

The visitors gained steam toward the end of the period, however, and Rubio nearly found the back of the net with a free kick that bent marginally high and wide of frame in the 42nd minute.

Two minutes later, Rubio’s service to the far post was volleyed back across the face of goal by Jimmy Medranda, but Kallman’s crucial defensive header prevented the lurking Ike Opara from nodding into an open net.

Sporting KC’s strong end to the first half was justly rewarded with a breakthrough goal in the second minute of stoppage time.

Ilie found a pocket of space in the central channel and carried the ball forward before a poke from Minnesota’s Abu Danladi directed the ball to Latif Blessing inside the penalty area. The diminutive Ghanaian promptly slipped a pass to the feet of Rubio, who hammered high into the back of the net from 12 yards for his sixth MLS goal of 2017 and his seventh strike in all competitions.

Blessing recorded his first MLS assist on the play, giving his side momentum heading into the break.

Saturday’s narrative turned sour for Sporting KC in the 59th minute when Melia, an MLS Goalkeeper of the Year contender, was forced to exit the match with an apparent hamstring injury.

The setback ended his uninterrupted 36-game stretch between the posts in 2017 across all competitions, prompting the Sporting KC debut of eighth-year MLS veteran Andrew Dykstra.

The final half-hour unfolded in gripping fashion as both sides created a handful of chances in a back-and-forth affair.

A 63rd-minute header from Kallman almost restored parity before Abdul-Salaam spurned a glorious opportunity a minute later at the opposite end, running onto a superb pass from Ilie and dragging a shot wide of the far post.

Minnesota forward Christian Ramirez entered Saturday with a team-best 14 goals and very nearly bagged another with 10 minutes remaining, but his snap header off a cross from substitute Sam Nicholson caromed off the cross bar. The close call was an ominous foreshadowing for Sporting KC, who conceded an equalizer four minutes later.

Kallman had been an aerial threat throughout the night and finally bagged his second goal of the campaign in the 84th minute, latching onto a delivery from Danladi to tie the match at 1-1.

Sporting KC was slightly fortunate not to fall behind shortly thereafter, as a turnover in their defensive third led to a wayward shot from Ethan Finlay.

Another twist to the plot came in the 91st minute when Minnesota defender Joseph Greenspan was sent off for his second bookable offense. The resulting man advantage gave Sporting KC the impetus to dominate all seven minutes of second-half stoppage time, going agonizingly close to finding the winner on multiple occasions.

Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth produced two huge saves in as many minutes, sprawling low to corral a driven free kick from Rubio before making a jaw-dropping reflex stop to thwart a Roger Espinoza header off Ilie’s corner kick.

In the 94th minute, a low cross from Medranda somehow eluded several bodies in a swarmed six-yard area, then Blessing dragged a shot inches wide with 97 minutes on the clock – seconds before referee Jose Carlos Rivero whistled for full time.

An opportunity to draw level on 51 points with Western Conference leaders Vancouver Whitecaps FC comes Wednesday when Sporting Kansas City travels to face rivals Houston Dynamo (11-10-10, 43 points) for a 7 p.m. kickoff at BBVA Compass Stadium, airing live on FOX Sports Kansas City.

– Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting KC competes for playoff spot Saturday at Minnesota United

Sporting Kansas City enters Saturday’s match at Minnesota United FC knowing a victory would result in a club-record seventh straight appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

The newest chapter of the regional rivalry will kick off at 7 p.m. inside TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, with three hours of live coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO. Additional live updates and exclusive offers will be available on the Sporting KC Uphoria app .

Postseason implications abound for both clubs as the amorphous Western Conference playoff picture begins to take shape. Sporting KC (12-7-11, 47 points) is in a three-way tie for second place alongside Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC, although the club has two games in hand on their Pacific Northwest rivals.

Minnesota (10-16-5, 35 points) sits in a less enviable position, seven points below the playoff line, and anything less than a victory in their home finale would all but dash the Loons’ postseason dreams.

Manager Peter Vermes’ men will try to rebound from a 1-0 defeat to first-place Vancouver Whitecaps FC last weekend – the team’s first loss at Children’s Mercy Park in 2017.

Saturday’s contest marks the beginning of an all-important stretch that will see Sporting KC play three of its last four games on the road. The side has claimed two away wins this season, and a victory at TCF Bank Stadium would go a long way in Sporting KC’s push for a top-two finish and the Knockout Round bye that comes with it.

Led by head coach Adrian Heath, Minnesota is currently enjoying the best spell of its inaugural MLS campaign.

The Loons have won three of their last four matches – including a wild 3-2 comeback win at high-flying Atlanta United FC on Tuesday – and boast a 5-4-1 record since July 29 after starting the year 5-12-4.

Minnesota received goals from its top three goal scorers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, as Abu Danladi struck in the 48th minute before Christian Ramirez equalized on 90 minutes and Kevin Molino bagged the dramatic winner in the sixth minute of added time.

Ramirez leads the Loons with 14 goals in his first MLS season, while rookie Danladi has added eight of his own.

Molino has struck seven times to go along with a team-best nine assists, but the midfielder will be one of several players unavailable Saturday due to national team commitments.

If Minnesota’s strong suit lies in its attack, their Achilles heel has been a defense that has leaked 63 goals in 2017 – the most in MLS.

In stark contrast, Sporting KC has conceded just 24 goals and wields a 0.80 goals against average that would be second-lowest in a 34-game regular season in MLS history.

Tim Melia and Ike Opara have played pivotal roles for the league’s best backline, becoming strong candidates for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and Defender of the Year.

A relevant subplot surrounding the game centers on international duty. Sporting KC will be without U.S. Men’s National Team trio Matt Besler, Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi, while the absences of James Musa (New Zealand), Kevin Oliveira (Cape Verde) and Soony Saad (Lebanon) reduce the depth Vermes has at his disposal.

Minnesota faces a similar challenge, as regular starters Molino (Trinidad and Tobago) and Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica) join Michael Boxall (New Zealand), Johan Venegas (Costa Rica) and Jermaine Taylor (Jamaica) for World Cup qualifiers or friendlies abroad. Calvo has made 25 starts as the Loons’ defensive anchor throughout 2017.

Sporting KC and Minnesota United FC are poised to battle for the fourth time in all competitions this season. The sides first met in Minneapolis on May 7 as Danladi and Ramirez scored first-half goals in a 2-0 win.

The most recent regular season meeting came on June 3 at Children’s Mercy Park, when Sporting KC used goals from Opara, Jimmy Medranda and Saad Abdul-Salaam to run away 3-0 winners.

Opara scored again in a 4-0 defeat of Minnesota on June 14 in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 32. Gerso and Daniel Salloi also found the back of the net as Sporting KC began its run to the tournament title.

– Story from Sporting KC

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