Sports Radio 810 WHB served up a compelling preview of Sunday’s playoff clash between Sporting Kansas City and the San Jose Earthquakes this morning as Nate Bukaty and Jacob Peterson—the Sporting KC broadcast duo for matches on FOX Sports Kansas City—touched on a number of storylines during a half-hour segment on The Border Patrol.
Sunday’s Round One showdown is slated for 3 p.m. CT at Children’s Mercy Park with live coverage on FS1, FOX Deportes and the FOX Sports app. As the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, Sporting will undoubtedly be the favorite against a capable and explosive No. 8 seed in San Jose.
Despite their perch atop the West, however, Peterson was clear to articulate his belief that Sporting haven’t received the credit they deserve from national pundits. Instead, teams like Seattle Sounders FC, Portland Timbers and LAFC have dominated playoff discussion out West.
“It’s absolutely crazy to me, and I realized when I played here that we’re in flyover country,” said Peterson, who spent five seasons with Sporting and helped the club win MLS Cup 2013. “You’ve got the two coasts and that’s what MLS cares about. The league wants to drum up those bigger markets. When I finished my playing career at Atlanta United, we were one of the league’s darlings and we had all of the attention. Everyone was pumping up Atlanta and wanted Atlanta to be successful.
“Coming back here, I think I forgot how much the national media overlooks Sporting Kansas City. I don’t know how you can watch Sporting this season and not think that they are one of the favorites here. I get it because teams like Seattle have been to MLS Cup in three of the last four years, but Sporting Kansas City has all of the pieces in place.
“This team went out, had an awesome offseason and got players that fit needs. The fact that Peter Vermes finished fifth in Coach of the Year voting is also baffling after the biggest (year-over-year) improvement in MLS history. You almost get spoiled with a coach as good as Peter Vermes.”
Peterson pointed out that Sporting’s lack of respect will be a moot point if they fail to back up their strong regular season with an extended run in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. To that point, the longtime MLS veteran believes Vermes’ men have all the makings of a legitimate cup contender.
“If Sporting Kansas City play the way that they’re capable of, they should 100% be in the mix. Having homefield advantage this year might not be the same with the limited amount of fans, but eliminating those travel concerns…it’s just an added bonus for them. A lot of it depends on the health of Alan Pulido and whether he will be available. He’s been week-to-week with a knee injury and didn’t join Mexico for this week’s international break.
“But the way that Sporting is playing right now, they’ve got every piece that they need. Winston Reid and Roberto Puncec have solidified the defense, which was kind of a trouble spot last year. Amadou Dia and Jaylin Lindsey have also added some speed to that backline. Gianluca Busio is one of the best young players in America, and you still have veteran guys like Roger Espinoza and Tim Melia who are leaders on the team. They have everything that they need, and they should be embracing that challenge for MLS Cup.”