Sporting KC travels to New York Saturday

A pair of MLS originals occupying third place in their conferences will lock horns Saturday at 6 p.m. when Sporting Kansas City (9-4-6, 33 points) battles the New York Red Bulls (10-5-2, 32 points) in a marquee matchup at Red Bull Arena in New York.

FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus will air three hours of live coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m., while listeners can catch the action on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish).

The game will also stream live on FOX Sports GO in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa and on ESPN+ elsewhere across the U.S, while the Sporting KC Uphoria app will provide live updates.

Sporting KC held top spot in the Western Conference for 15 straight weeks before a recent skid saw FC Dallas usurp manager Peter Vermes’ men at the summit.

Consecutive road defeats to the Montreal Impact and Real Salt Lake were followed by an exciting 2-2 draw against Toronto FC last Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park.

Ilie scored a 57th-minute equalizer from the penalty spot before Johnny Russell bagged his 100th professional goal to give Sporting KC a 2-1 lead, but the Reds drew level on a 69th-minute strike from Jordan Hamilton.

Russell is now tied with fellow forward Daniel Salloi as Sporting KC’s top goal scorer this season. The duo has notched seven goals apiece in all competitions while also racking up six assists each in MLS play.

While Russell and Salloi have maintained solid scoring rates, midfielder Roger Espinoza is in the best playmaking campaign of his MLS career. The Honduran has a team-best eight assists and places fourth league-wide with 36 chances created from open play.

Manager Jesse Marsch parted ways with the Red Bulls last week to take an assistant coaching job with German side Red Bull Leipzig, ending a successful four-year stint in New York that included three playoff appearances, a 2015 Supporters’ Shield title and a 58-35-25 record.

Replacing him at the helm is former U.S. international and MLS veteran Chris Armas, who has served as an assistant under Marsch since 2015.

The Red Bulls suffered a 1-0 defeat to rivals New York City FC last Sunday in Armas’ first game in charge, snapping their four-game MLS unbeaten run. Maximiliano Moralez slotted home in the 85th minute at Yankee Stadium to move five points clear of their cross-city counterparts in the Eastern Conference table.

A dangerous New York attack figures to give the Sporting KC backline a stern test this weekend.

Vermes’ side ranks among the top scoring teams in MLS – their 35 goals through 19 games are already five shy of equaling last season’s total – but the club’s defensive form has regressed in recent weeks. The club has allowed 12 goals across its last five games in all competitions, conceding the first goal in each match.

Nevertheless, reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Tim Melia still owns a league-best seven shutouts.

Prolific Englishman Bradley Wright-Phillips continues to serve as the centerpiece of New York’s potent offense, ranking second in MLS with 11 goals in 2018.

The Red Bulls are averaging two goals per game, the fourth-best clip in MLS, largely thanks to the contributions of Wright-Phillips and his supporting cast. Since 2014, his 104 regular-season goals are 31 more than any other player.

In the attacking midfield area, newcomer Kaku has enjoyed a brilliant first MLS campaign with a league-best 10 assists, while wingers Daniel Royer and Alex Muyl have chipped in six goals.

New York has been particularly lethal at home, where they have outscored opponents 20-4 and posted a 6-1-1 record.

A major championship was up for grabs the last time these clubs met in September 2017.

Children’s Mercy Park was the setting for a hotly contested Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, which saw Sporting KC lift their fourth trophy in six seasons. Daniel Salloi scored what turned out to be the match-winner in the 66th minute before Bradley Wright-Phillips provided a consolation goal for the Red Bulls in stoppage time.

The 2-1 victory gave Sporting KC their fourth Open Cup title and denied the Red Bulls their first cup of any kind.

Sporting KC has won three straight meetings in the series, including a 2-0 triumph when the club last visited New York in April 2016, and owns a 3-1-1 record over their last five regular-season visits to Red Bull Arena.

Vermes’ side holds a 3-3-3 road record this season and is one shy of the club’s 100th all-time away win in the MLS regular season.

Six of Kansas City’s 99 regular-season road victories have come against the Red Bulls – including three wins at both Red Bull Arena (2012, 2013 and 2016) and the now-demolished Giants Stadium (1999, 2000 and 2009).

Four Sporting KC players will miss Saturday’s match through injury – namely Brad Evans (Achilles), Cristian Lobato (knee), Jimmy Medranda (knee) and Khiry Shelton (knee) – but midfield talisman Felipe Gutierrez has been upgraded to questionable after missing the last two and a half months with a sports hernia.

Gutierrez was named the MLS Player of the Month in March after scoring five goals in his first five appearances for the club. Center back Ike Opara is also listed as questionable after straining his hamstring in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Toronto.

On the opposite sideline, midfielder Florian Valot had registered three goals and five assists in his first MLS season before suffering a torn ACL in training last week. Joining him on the New York injury report is fellow Frenchman Vincent Bezecourt, who will be sidelined with a knee ailment.

– Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting KC offense misfires in 2-2 draw against Toronto

Midfielder Ilie Sanchez scored on a penalty kick in the 57th minute. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

Several near-misses cost Sporting Kansas City a chance at victory on Saturday night, settling for a 2-2 draw at home against Toronto FC.

With his lineup depleted by injuries and suspensions, head coach Peter Vermes still praised the team’s effort.

“To be able to be leading the game 2 – 1 and create the kind of chances that we did, and have the hunger to try and score like we did, I say it again, I’m very proud of the team.”

Sporting KC controlled the start of the game, with two shots in the first 10 minutes that nearly found the net. Toronto stabilized and then was able to take the lead midway through the first half on a goal by midfielder Jonathan Osorio.

Kansas City struck back early in the second half when Gerso Fernandes was taken down near the Toronto goal, handing Ilie Sanchez a penalty kick opportunity that he knocked cleanly past the goalkeeper.

Kansas City moved ahead in the 61st minute when Diego Rubio found Johnny Russell in the middle of the field near the 18-yard line.

Sporting KC gave up the equalizer in the 69th minute to Toronto forward Jordan Hamilton. Although they continued to press in the late minutes of the game, Sporting KC wasn’t able to convert, with more near misses taking their toll.

Said Johnny Russell, “You know, we’ve hit the crossbar with a couple of them, headers I’ve just missed and a few shots I’ve just missed as well. So on another night you know we score two, three more goals. But tonight wasn’t our night in that sense.”

Sporting Kansas City plays on the road against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, July 14. Their next home game is July 28 against MLS Western Conference leader FC Dallas.

Officer Dustin Dierenfeldt of the Kansas City, Kansas, police department performed the national anthem. Color guards from the police department and the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s office presented the colors. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Johnny Russell knocked in a shot from the edge of the penalty area in the 61st minute. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Many area police and fire departments had equipment on display before the game. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Forward Johnny Russell was upset at just missing a header on goal early in the game. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Forward Gerso Fernandes was taken to the ground on this play, earning Sporting KC a penalty kick. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Johnny Russell played the ball into the center, pursued by Toronto defender Justin Morrow (2). (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Defender Graham Zusi played the ball up the right sideline as head coach Peter Vermes implored the team to move forward in support. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Midfielder Ilie Sanchez hopped the wall surrounding the field in order to thank a supporter in the stands after the game. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Johnny Russell played a volley on goal but his shot was over the goal. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
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Toronto visits Sporting KC tonight in KCK

With a two-game road trip in the books, Sporting Kansas City (9-4-5, 32 points) returns to the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday to meet reigning MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield champion Toronto FC.

FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus will air three hours of live coverage beginning at 7 p.m., while listeners can catch the action on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish).

The game will also stream live on FOX Sports GO in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa and on ESPN+ elsewhere across the U.S. A limited number of tickets for Saturday’s showdown are available via SeatGeek.com , and all fans in attendance will be treated to a fireworks show 15 minutes after the final whistle.

Both teams will be looking to snap losing streaks when they take the field on Saturday.

Sporting KC has dropped two straight since defeating the Houston Dynamo 3-2 on June 23, while Toronto FC has lost three consecutive league games for the first time since September 2015.

The Fourth of July was nothing to celebrate for either team. Toronto FC took a 4-3 loss at Minnesota United FC, suffering the ill effects of Darwin Quintero’s devastating hat-trick.

The Reds now sit eight points below the playoff line in the East, and to complicate matters, striker Jozy Altidore, midfielder Victor Vazquez and defender Drew Moor – veterans who played influential roles during their treble-winning 2017 campaign – will miss Saturday through injury.

Sporting KC, meanwhile, has lost back-to-back games for the first time since May 2017. A 4-2 defeat to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday was further soured by red cards issued to Daniel Salloi and Roger Espinoza.

The club had held first place in the Western Conference since mid-March but enters the weekend three points behind FC Dallas and five points behind Supporters’ Shield leaders Atlanta United FC.

In 2017, Toronto FC became the first MLS club to win a treble by lifting the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship.

They finished with an MLS regular-season record 69 points to go with 20 wins (most all-time in the non-shootout era) and 74 goals (second-most all-time).

Fortunes have reversed in 2018, however, as the Reds already have twice as many MLS defeats as they did last season. A slew of injuries and the lingering hangover of a heartbreaking loss to Chivas de Guadalajara in the 2018 Concacaf Champions League finals in April have put Toronto behind the proverbial eight-ball heading into July.

Sporting KC will have some attacking boots to fill on Saturday with their leading goal scorer and top assist man suspended.

Salloi has bagged a team-best seven goals while Espinoza has an MLS career-high eight assists.

On the opposite sideline, Italian talisman Sebastian Giovinco (four goals, seven assists) remains a man to watch with 59 goals and 44 assists across 100 MLS regular season appearances.

The head-to-head series has belonged to Sporting KC, and decisively so. Kansas City owns a 14-4-6 record against the Reds, including a 9-1-2 mark at home.

Vermes’ men are 11-1-3 in the last 15 meetings and 6-0-2 in the last eight. Additionally, Toronto has never won at Children’s Mercy Park (0-6-1) and their 14 regular-season losses to Sporting KC are their most against any MLS foe.

Both sides carry a handful of injury concerns into Saturday’s contest. The hosts will continue to be without Felipe Gutierrez (hernia), Gianluca Busio (hamstring), Cristian Lobato (knee) and Jimmy Medranda (knee), while Toronto head coach Greg Vanney will have seven absences to account for in Altidore, Vazquez, Moor, Auro, Jason Hernandez, Chris Mavinga and Caleb Patterson-Sewell.

– Story from Sporting KC

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