Minnesota United FC visits Sporting KC on Thursday

Sporting Kansas City (8-11-8, 31 points) and Minnesota United FC (12-8-6, 42 points) will lock horns in a pivotal Western Conference clash rife with postseason implications on Thursday night at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

The contest will kick off at 8:30 p.m. and air live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM. Fans can also stream the action on the ESPN app or use the Sporting KC app for additional in-game updates.

Tickets for Thursday’s high-stakes encounter are available at SeatGeek.com as 10th-place Sporting aims to close the six-point gap between themselves and the seventh and final playoff spot in the West.

Second-place Minnesota, meanwhile, will hope to continue their excellent run of summer form prior to visiting Atlanta United FC for the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final next Tuesday.

Riding an eight-year playoff streak, Sporting boosted its postseason hopes last Saturday after erasing a 1-0 halftime deficit to sink the San Jose Earthquakes by a 2-1 scoreline at Children’s Mercy Park. Benny Feilhaber bagged a 50th-minute equalizer-becoming the third active MLS player to record 40 goals and 60 assists in his regular season career-and center back Graham Smith opened his professional scoring account in the 76th minute to complete the comeback.

Injuries have plagued manager Peter Vermes’ side throughout the 2019 campaign, but Sporting enters Thursday with a mostly clean bill of health. Influential winger Gerso Fernandes (ankle) is listed as questionable, but Hungarian duo Botond Barath and Krisztian Nemeth are no longer on the club’s injury report. A robust squad will give Vermes multiple personnel options heading into a vitally important matchup against the Loons.

Led by third-year head coach Adrian Heath, Minnesota has reached new heights in 2019 after missing the mark in their first two seasons as an MLS club.

The Loons fell short of the postseason in 2017 and 2018, going 4-26-4 on the road in the process, but currently sit second in the West and boast four league victories on their travels. Perhaps more impressively, Minnesota boasts a 10-1-3 record across all competitions over the last two and a half months-a torrid stretch that began with a 4-1 defeat of Sporting in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 32 on June 12 at Allianz Field.

Colombian attacker Darwin Quintero (eight goals), inventive winger Ethan Finlay (six goals) and striker Angelo Rodriguez (five goals) all scored against Sporting in June and form the heart of Minnesota’s dynamic offense. Further back, defender Ike Opara anchors the Loons backline and is set for an anticipated return to Children’s Mercy Park, having helped Sporting to an MLS Cup and Open Cup title during a highly successful stint from 2013-2018.

Despite their recent surge, Minnesota will approach Thursday’s fixture with an air of caution. After all, Sporting owns a perfect 4-0-0 home record against the Loons in all competitions, scoring 13 goals and conceding just one since Minnesota joined MLS via expansion in 2017.

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