Sporting Kansas City vs. Orlando City SC
2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 2
Friday, April 23, 2021 | 6:30 p.m. CT
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
English TV | FS1
Spanish TV | FOX Deportes
Streaming | FOX Sports App
English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
World-class Children's Mercy Park will raise its curtains on the 2021 MLS season when Sporting Kansas City (1-0-0, 3 points) hosts Orlando City SC (0-0-1, 1 point) in a highly anticipated and long-awaited home opener on Friday night.
Slated for 6:30 p.m. CT, the marquee interconference clash will be shown nationally on FS1, FOX Deportes and the FOX Sports app. Sports Radio 810 WHB will provide extended coverage of the contest, including a pregame show starting at 6 p.m. CT and The Final Whistle immediately after the match, while La Grande 1340 AM will broadcast the action in Spanish.
For the first time in four and a half months, Children's Mercy Park is set to host an MLS match as championship hopefuls Sporting and Orlando prepare to lock horns. The stadium will welcome a sold-out crowd of approximately 6,500 fans for the 26th home opener in Kansas City’s illustrious MLS history, marking the first Friday home game for Sporting since April 2018. The first 4,500 guests in attendance will receive a commemorative rally towel and all fans will receive a Sporting KC schedule magnet upon exiting the stadium.
An exciting Week 1 encounter saw midfielder Gadi Kinda and forward Daniel Salloi score in back-to-back minutes as Sporting secured a 2-1 comeback victory over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena. After New York took a 1-0 lead three minutes into the second half through 17-year-old Caden Clark, Kinda converted a 59th-minute penalty kick and Salloi slotted home in the 60th minute to give Sporting all three points as well as their MLS-record 15th season-opening win.
With Tim Melia out injured, 19-year-old John Pulskamp became the youngest Sporting goalkeeper to play in an MLS match and the youngest MLS goalkeeper to win a game since 2010. Pulskamp was one of three Sporting debutants in the starting lineup, joining a pair of Frenchmen in center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and holding midfielder Remi Walter.
Although Orlando was held to a scoreless draw against rivals Atlanta United FC in their season opener last Saturday, the Lions enter 2021 with greater expectations than ever. Head coach Oscar Pareja steered Orlando to its first playoff appearance last fall, posting an impressive 11-4-8 regular season record in addition to reaching the finals of the MLS is Back Tournament.
Portuguese winger Nani, dynamic attacker Chris Mueller, playmaker Mauricio Pereyra and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese figure to play integral roles for a Lions side that emerged from Children's Mercy Park with a 2-1 victory last September. Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel found the back of the net for Orlando in the first half of that contest, while Sporting grabbed a goal back through Johnny Russell after halftime.
On Friday night, the longest-tenured head coach in MLS history will reach another major milestone in his decorated career. Sporting Manager Peter Vermes, now in his 13th season at the helm, will participate in his 600th MLS match as a player or a head coach (including playoffs). Only one other person—longtime player and manager Jason Kreis—has been involved in more MLS matches as a player or a head coach.
Vermes helped his squad showcase its versatility last weekend as 18-year-old midfielder Gianluca Busio was deployed as a center forward. Russell and fellow star Alan Pulido—who finished tied for the team lead with six goals apiece last year—came off the bench against the Red Bulls after recovering from injuries sustained during the preseason and could be poised for longer run-outs on Friday.
Kansas City owns a formidable 15-3-7 all-time record in home openers, including a 4-1-5 mark at Children's Mercy Park. Sporting also has the opportunity to start 2-0-0 in consecutive regular seasons for the first time ever, having defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Houston Dynamo FC in the first two weeks of what became a truncated 2020 campaign.
Sporting are 2-3-1 against Orlando in the MLS regular season, winning two of three at Children’s Mercy Park. The Lions have won each of the last two meetings in 2019 and 2020—both of which have seen Akindele etch his name on the scoresheet.