Immersed in a battle for seeding in the Western Conference, playoff-bound Sporting Kansas City (15-8-8, 3rd place) ventures north of the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC (12-12-7, 8th place) on Wednesday night at BC Place.
The match will kick off at 9 p.m., with three hours of live coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. Local radio broadcasts will air on ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish), while the Sporting KC Uphoria app will provide in-game updates. Additionally, viewers outside of the FOX Sports Midwest footprint can stream the contest on ESPN+.
Manager Peter Vermes’ side has already punched its ticket to the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, but the hunt for a top-two finish – and the Knockout Round bye that goes with it – has reached a fever pitch heading into the final fortnight of the regular season. Sporting KC enters the midweek clash in third place, four points back of leaders FC Dallas and three behind LAFC, with a game in hand on both clubs.
While Sporting KC is fighting for ideal playoff seeding, the Whitecaps are fighting for their postseason lives. Vancouver sits eighth in the West, three points behind Real Salt Lake for the sixth and final playoff spot. The Canadian side does have a game in hand on both RSL and seventh-place LA Galaxy, adding even more incentive for the hosts going into Wednesday.
A feisty 1-1 home draw with the Galaxy on Oct. 6 saw Sporting KC clinch a club-record eighth straight postseason berth. Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired the visitors ahead with a 25th-minute penalty kick, but Johnny Russell embarked on a dazzling solo run before notching a sublime 83rd-minute equalizer that ultimately won AT&T MLS Goal of the Week honors.
Russell, who leads the team in both goals (11) and assists (11) in all competitions, was one of three Sporting KC players selected for senior international duty during October’s FIFA window. The Scottish winger and Hungary forward Krisztian Nemeth have finished their national team commitments in Europe and traveled back across the Atlantic, while midfielder Felipe Gutierrez and Chile will meet Mexico tonight in Queretaro.
On the opposite sideline, Vancouver has up to six players who could feature tonight in international matches. That expansive list includes Canadian trio Alphonso Davies, Doneil Henry and Russell Teibert, Egypt midfielder Aly Ghazal, Costa Rica defender Kendall Waston and Peru forward Yordy Reina. These six players have combined for 129 appearances, 15 goals and 26 assists for the Whitecaps in 2018.
In particular, Davies leads MLS homegrown players with 17 combined goals (six) and assists (11) in league play, Waston is a reigning MLS Defender of the Year finalist, and Reyna owns a tie for the team lead with 11 assists.
Guided by interim head coach Craig Dalrymple, who took over for the released Carl Robinson on Sept. 25, Vancouver notched a crucial 2-1 road win over Toronto FC on Oct. 6 to preserve their playoff hopes.
Teibert gave the Whitecaps an early lead and Kei Kamara bagged a 78th-minute winner shortly after Jozy Altidore had equalized from the penalty spot. Kamara, who starred for Sporting KC from 2009-2013, leads the Caps with 14 league goals this season, eight more than any other teammate.
Sporting KC is in one of its best offensive seasons in club history, having scored 56 times through 31 games. That total is five shy of tying the 22-year-old team record. Vermes will hope his team can continue to cash in against a leaky Vancouver defense that has managed just two shutouts in 2018, the second-fewest in MLS.
The teams last met on April 20, when Russell ran riot en route to a hat-trick as Sporting KC prevailed 6-0 at Children’s Mercy Park. Jimmy Medranda, Cristian Lobato and Yohan Croizet also found the back of the net in a whitewash that equaled Sporting KC’s largest-ever margin of victory in a competitive match.
Kansas City owns a 7-3-3 regular season record against the Whitecaps, who had previously won four straight meetings in the series across all competitions before falling 6-0 this spring.
– Story from Sporting KC