Major League Soccer’s pivotal month of October will resume Sunday when Sporting Kansas City (8-5-2, 26 points) puts a two-game winning streak on the line against Nashville SC (4-5-6, 18 points), an expansion club looking to extend its four-game unbeaten run.
Kickoff at Children’s Mercy Park is slated for 6 p.m. with tickets available at SeatGeek.com and stadium capacity reduced to 18%.
Sunday’s inter-conference clash will be shown live on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO, with 30-minute pregame and postgame shows. Listeners can also catch the action locally on ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM
A competitive Western Conference race currently sees Sporting saddled in third place, a point behind the Portland Timbers and four behind Seattle Sounders FC. Manager Peter Vermes’ side went 1-4-2 from Aug. 25 to Sept. 23 but has since responded with consecutive victories to regain momentum.
Last Saturday’s 2-1 road triumph over the Houston Dynamo was followed by a 1-0 defeat of Chicago Fire FC on Wednesday at Children’s Mercy Park, which featured major contributions from goalkeeper Tim Melia and center back Winston Reid.
Melia, who saved a second-minute penalty kick, has now stopped four of the last five penalties he has faced in the regular season and boasts a 0.56 goals conceded percentage on PK attempts, the lowest in MLS history. Reid, meanwhile, nodded home the decisive goal in the 67th minute off a Johnny Russell corner kick and became the second Sporting player since the dawn of the MLS Opta era in 2010 to record seven interceptions and a game-winning goal in a shutout victory.
Sporting have scored in each of their first 15 MLS matches this season — a regular season club record — and remain the only team in the league yet to be shut out. Russell and striker Alan Pulido — who will miss Sunday’s game while on international duty with Mexico — have led the way with six and five goals, respectively, while Gadi Kinda and Khiry Shelton have added four apiece.
Scoring could be hard to come by Sunday, however, as Nashville SC boasts one of the better defensive records in MLS. Led by English head coach Gary Smith, the Tennessee outfit has conceded just 14 goals in 15 games this season. Experienced veterans such as Walker Zimmerman, Dax McCarty, Daniel Lovitz and Anibal Godoy have given the first-year club a formidable spine, even if the team has yet to catch fire offensively.
Nashville’s 11 goals are the second-fewest in MLS, and the team has taken part in a league-high four goalless draws this year — including each of their last two outings against the New England Revolution and Minnesota United FC. Zimmerman, fellow center back Dave Romney and goalkeeper Joe Willis have played every minute of the 2020 campaign thus far and helped Nashville to an impressive seven clean sheets, tied for the second-most in MLS.
The inaugural meeting between Sporting and Nashville will see the visitors aim to improve upon a dismal road scoring rate. Nashville has managed just two goals in eight away matches this season, a dry spell that includes a 345-minute road goalless drought dating back to Aug. 26. Sporting, meanwhile, is 9-3-4 in their inaugural regular season meetings with expansion clubs since 2005.
Both teams will be playing their third game in nine days on Sunday. The upcoming match schedule is particularly congested for a Sporting side that is scheduled to play nine regular season fixtures in a 30-day period from Oct. 3 to Nov. 1 — the busiest month in club history.
A frantic finish to the campaign will then conclude with MLS Decision Day 2020 on Nov. 8 as all clubs round out their 23-game regular season slates ahead of the MLS Cup Playoffs beginning in mid-November. The expanded 18-team playoff field will consist of eight Western Conference clubs and 10 Eastern Conference clubs in a single-elimination format through MLS Cup on Dec. 12.
- Story from Sporting KC