For the first time since match play was suspended March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Soccer action will resume July 8 with the historic and unprecedented MLS is Back Tournament. This one-of-a-kind competition will see all 26 clubs descend on ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, marking the emphatic return of men's professional soccer in the United States after a near four-month hiatus.
As the opening match approaches, SportingKC.com is presenting a 20-day preview of the World-Cup style tournament from June 18 through July 7 called Countdown to MLS is Back presented by Children's Mercy Sports Medicine Center.
Sporting Kansas City will kick off their Group D campaign on July 12 against rivals Minnesota United FC before facing the Colorado Rapids on July 17 and Real Salt Lake on July 22, with all three games shown live nationally on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN app. To visit the series homepage as it expands, head to SportingKC.com/MLSisBack.
Sporting Kansas City's group stage campaign in the MLS is Back Tournament will consist of three games against Western Conference rivals, all of which will count toward the 2020 regular season standings.
After scouting Minnesota United FC—Sporting's first opponent on July 12—in Thursday's edition of the countdown, our next pitstop brings us to the Colorado Rapids. Manager Peter Vermes' men will battle head coach Robin Fraser's side on July 17, serving as the 79th meeting all-time between the MLS originals.
The highs of Colorado's MLS Cup win in 2010 were followed by several seasons of disappointment, but the latter half of 2019 should have Rapids fans believing that better times are ahead.
It was a tale of two seasons for Colorado in 2019. The Rapids went a woeful 0-9-2 to start the year, prompting the dismissal of manager Anthony Hudson. From that point onward, Colorado posted a 12-7-4 record and saw its offense explode. Fraser, appointed on Aug. 25, went 5-2-0 to finish the campaign with the Rapids scoring 15 goals during that stretch.
By the end of 2019, Colorado had racked up 58 goals in the regular season, the second-most in club history and almost as many as the previous two seasons combined. A pair of former Sporting forwards were largely responsible, as Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio combined for 25 goals. Andre Shinyashiki (seven goals) and U.S. international Jonathan Lewis (five goals) also made notable contributions.
Amazingly enough, all three Western Conference teams that began 2020 with perfect 2-0-0 records have been placed in Group D. That trio includes Sporting, Minnesota United FC and—you guessed it—the Rapids. Colorado left it late in both victories to kick off the campaign, earning a 2-1 road win at D.C. United before ousting Orlando City SC on home turf.
In the nation's capital, Kamara headed home a 67th-minute equalizer before Lewis notched a dramatic winner in the second minute of stoppage time. A week later, veteran defender Drew Moor scored in the 90th minute after Colorado's Younes Namli and Orlando's Chris Mueller traded earlier goals.
All in all, the Rapids appear to be in better shape now than they have been for most of the previous decade.
Three players to watch
Midfielder Kellyn Acosta: A few years ago, Acosta was tabbed as one of the best young midfielders in the U.S. Men's National Team pool. He collected 13 caps in 2017 alone and played an integral role for a formidable FC Dallas side, breaking into the team as a teenage homegrown and gradually becoming a regular starter. He was traded to Colorado in 2018 and delivered a solid campaign last year as one of the team's most consistent performers. Acosta is still just 24 years old, so his best soccer could still be ahead of him.
Forward Kei Kamara: The uber-athletic forward has hit at least 12 goals in each of the last five seasons, all of which came in his 30s. Kamara turns 36 in September and has aged like a fine wine, scoring goals at an eye-opening clip despite several changes in scenery. He has played for four different MLS clubs since 2016, but he may have found a suitable landing spot to finish his long, prolific career.
Attacking midfielder Younes Namli: After tracking the Danish playmaker for two years in Europe, the Rapids finally secured his services this January. Namli signed as a Designated Player on a two-year loan from Russian side FC Krasnodar and made his mark in his home debut on March 7, scoring in a 2-1 defeat of Orlando. Expectations are high for the 26-year-old, and the MLS is Back Tournament will give him the opportunity to shine.
"When you look at Colorado, I think head coach Robin Fraser has made a huge impact there. They’ve had a good, talented roster and he’s given them some really good organization and belief in the way that they’re playing."
As previously mentioned, Sporting and Colorado have squared off 78 times in all competitions, making the Rapids the most frequent opponent in Kansas City history. Sporting holds a narrow advantage at 31-29-18, including a 25-24-15 mark in the regular season. Vermes' side went 6-0-5 against Colorado from 2009-2015, but have gone just 2-7-2 in the series since August 2015.
In two meetings last season, the sides scrapped to a 1-1 draw in Colorado on St. Patrick's Day before Sporting took a 3-2 loss last September at Children's Mercy Park.
Recent #SKCvCOL meetings
Sporting KC leads series 31-29-18 in all competitions
|04/09/2017||W 3-1||Home||MLS regular season|
|05/27/2017||L 0-1||Away||MLS regular season|
|03/24/2018||T 2-2||Away||MLS regular season|
|05/05/2018||W 1-0||Home||MLS regular season|
|03/17/2019||T 1-1||Away||MLS regular season|
|09/21/2019||L 2-3||Home||MLS regular season|