Sporting KC defends first place today against Houston in KCK

A pair of Western Conference foes renew their rivalry Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park as first-place Sporting Kansas City (8-2-5, 29 points) plays host to the Houston Dynamo (6-5-3, 21 points) at 7:30 p.m.

A limited number of tickets for the highly anticipated matchup are available at SeatGeek.com, including standing-room only tickets, and the first 10,000 fans through the stadium gates will receive free black argyle sunglasses.

FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus will broadcast three hours of live coverage Saturday beginning at 7 p.m., while local radio calls will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish). The game will also stream live on FOX Sports GO for fans within the FOX Sports Midwest viewing area and on ESPN+ for those elsewhere across the U.S. The Sporting KC Uphoria mobile app will offer additional in-game updates.

Following Saturday’s contest, supporters are encouraged to stay in their seats for the Special Olympics Unified Exchange game between athletes from Special Olympics Kansas City and Special Olympics Houston, starting at approximately 10 p.m. The nightcap is part of the 2018 Special Olympics Unified Sports Soccer Exchange Program, which promotes an environment of social inclusion by uniting people with and without intellectual disabilities through Special Olympics Unified Sports.

Unbeaten in eight straight matches across all competitions, Sporting KC enters Saturday tied for first place in the West with 29 points through 15 games.

The club will be playing its first MLS contest in a fortnight, having emerged victorious in a wild home victory over FC Dallas last Saturday in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16.

Forward Daniel Salloi struck on either side of halftime, moving into a tie for the team lead with six goals the season, before French midfielder Yohan Croizet came off the bench and scored one of the greatest goals in Children’s Mercy Park history – a sweetly struck 22-yard volley in the 89th minute – to propel his side to the quarterfinals at Houston on July 18.

Led by second-year head coach Wilmer Cabrera, Houston sits one point below playoff position in seventh place but has at least one game in hand on most of its Western Conference rivals.

Like Sporting KC, the Dynamo are coming off a hard-earned Open Cup triumph that saw Mauro Manotas score the decisive goal in Monday’s 1-0 decision against Minnesota United FC. Houston’s last MLS match was a 2-0 home win over the Colorado Rapids that produced first-half goals from Manotas and Tomas Martinez.

Sporting KC approaches the fixture in a rich vein of form defensively, boasting shutouts in eight of their last 13 games overall, but that mark will be put to the test Saturday against a Houston attack that ranks among the best in MLS.

The Dynamo rank second in the league with 2.1 goals per game, powered by early MLS MVP candidate Alberth Elis. The 22-year-old Honduras has 13 combined goals (eight) and assists (five) this season, tied for the third most in MLS.

Sporting KC and Houston have squared off 27 times in all competitions since the start of 2011, splitting the series with nine wins, nine losses and nine draws each. This stretch includes six meetings in the MLS Cup Playoffs and four in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, where the teams met in both tournaments last season.

Sporting KC prevailed 2-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 before falling 1-0 at the same venue in the Western Conference Knockout Round last October.

Familiarity will continue to reign supreme this summer, with Sporting KC and Houston braced to battle three times over the next six weeks.

Manager Peter Vermes’ men will visit Houston in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on July 18 before returning to Texas for a regular season matchup on Aug. 4.

Houston has struggled on its travels under the guidance of Cabrera, going 2-12-10 in its last 24 regular season road games since the start of 2017. However, the Dynamo are undefeated in their last seven regular season trips to Children’s Mercy Park, going 1-0-6 ever since suffering a 3-0 defeat on Sept. 10, 2011. Sporting KC is winless in the last eight regular season meetings between the teams, going 0-4-4 ever since claiming a 2-0 win at BBVA Compass Stadium on June 6, 2014.

Both sides will be forced to account for multiple injury absences on Saturday.

The hosts will be without Gianluca Busio (hamstring), Brad Evans (ankle), Felipe Gutierrez (hernia), Cristian Lobato (knee) and Jimmy Medranda (knee), while captain Matt Besler is questionable with a hamstring ailment.

Houston, meanwhile, has six players ruled out for the match, including Juan Cabezas (quad), Darwin Ceren (knee), A.J. DeLaGarza (torn ACL), Dylan Remick (concussion), Mac Steeves (hip) and Andrew Wenger (calf).
– Story from Sporting KC

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