A pair of MLS originals will square off at 5 p.m. Sunday when Sporting Kansas City (7-2-3, 24 points) welcomes Columbus Crew SC (7-3-3, 24 points) to Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas.
The interconference clash will be televised nationally on FS1 and FOX Deportes, pitting two teams tied for second place in the MLS Supporters’ Shield standings. Local radio broadcasts will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM, while the Sporting KC Uphoria mobile app will provide live updates.
A limited number of tickets for Sunday’s match, including standing-room only tickets, are available on SeatGeek.com.
Retro Night will pay homage to the club’s roots, and the first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a free retro jersey koozie.
Entering Week 13 with a four-point lead atop the Western Conference, Sporting KC is looking to bounce back into the victory column after settling for a 1-1 draw at Minnesota United FC last Sunday.
Forward Khiry Shelton scored his first goal for the club in the eighth minute off a Johnny Russell corner kick, but the Loons responded 12 minutes later with an equalizer from Darwin Quintero to split the points in a game that was otherwise dominated by Sporting KC.
Manager Peter Vermes’ men enjoyed 61 percent possession and outshot Minnesota 24-6, forcing goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to make a career-high nine saves.
Arguably no team has enjoyed a better month of May than Columbus, who will go into Sunday’s match unbeaten in six games and boasting a 405-minute shutout streak that ranks as the longest in MLS this season.
Guided by fifth-year head coach Greg Berhalter, Crew SC has posted four straight clean sheets for the first time since 2011 and has allowed a paltry two goals in six road games.
Anchoring Crew SC’s stout defensive form is 23-year-old goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who owns a league-best six shutouts and a 0.75 goals against average. And while the Columbus backline has been miserly, striker Gyasi Zardes and premier playmaker Federico Higuain have been equally dangerous going forward.
Zardes is tied for the MLS lead with eight goals at his new club, having scored eight times in the previous two seasons combined as a member of the LA Galaxy. Higuain leads MLS with 41 chances created, including a league-best 16 chances created from set pieces, and has chipped in three goals and five assists.
If any team can rival Columbus’ recent defensive dominance, it might be Sporting KC. With center backs Matt Besler and Ike Opara marshaling the squad, the club has conceded just four goals in its last eight matches.
On the other side of the field, Sporting KC has also maintained an impressive scoring clip at two goals per game – thanks in large part to a balanced attack led by wingers Russell (five goals, three assists) and Daniel Salloi (three goals, four assists).
Russell’s strong performances in his first MLS campaign have helped him earn a call to the Scotland Men’s National Team, where he will join following Sunday’s match for a friendly against Mexico on June 2.
Recent meetings between the clubs have favored Sporting KC, who are 6-1-1 versus Columbus since 2013. Vermes’ side has also won each of its last four home games against Crew SC, who last prevailed at Children’s Mercy Park on July 28, 2012.
As two of Major League Soccer’s original 10 franchises, these teams have met 54 times in the regular season. The series has unfolded evenly with Sporting KC holding a 25-22-7 record.
Sporting KC enters Sunday without influential midfielder Felipe Gutierrez, who will miss the next several weeks after undergoing successful sports hernia surgery on May 1. Joining him on the club’s injury report are defender Jimmy Medranda (knee) forward Diego Rubio (back), who are both listed as questionable for the match.
On the opposite sideline, Columbus will likely have to cope with the absence of designated player Pedro Santos. The Portuguese winger started in the team’s first 10 games of the season, but a thigh injury has limited him to just 25 minutes played over the last four games.
– Story from Sporting KC