Match Preview - Oct. 23, 2021

Sporting Kansas City at Seattle Sounders FC
2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 30
Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 | 2:30 p.m. CT (kickoff at 2:50 p.m. CT)
Lumen Field | Seattle, Washington

Broadcast Schedule:
English TV
| Bally Sports KC, Bally Sports Midwest
Spanish TV | Univision, TUDN
Streaming | BallySports.com, Bally Sports app, @TUDNUSA Twitter
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM

A colossal Western Conference showdown will unfold Saturday afternoon as second-place Sporting Kansas City (15-7-7, 52 points) visits first-place Seattle Sounders FC (17-6-7, 58 points) in a 2:50 p.m. CT kickoff at Lumen Field.

Rife with playoff seeding implications, the match will air regionally on Bally Sports Kansas City and Bally Sports Midwest and nationally in Spanish on Univision and TUDN with coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. CT. Fans can also stream the action live on Twitter at @TUDNUSA, while viewers within the Bally Sports Midwest footprint can catch the game on BallySports.com or the Bally Sports app.

Supporters are invited to access the Sporting KC mobile app for additional in-game updates and attend the official watch party for Saturday's match at Mr. Brew's Taphouse in Lawrence, Kansas (3140 Iowa St.).

Looking to finish atop the West for the third time in four seasons, Manager Peter Vermes' side trails the conference-leading Sounders by six points in the standings with one game in hand. A road win this weekend would shift momentum toward Sporting Kansas City heading into the final fortnight of the regular season, while a Seattle victory would strengthen their status in pole position.

The top seven teams in the West following Decision Day on Nov. 7 will advance to the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, with the top-seeded club receiving a bye to the conference semifinals. Sporting have yet to officially punch their playoff ticket and can do so with a win against Seattle or if any one of several results go their way this weekend. Sporting's nine postseason appearances over the last decade are second-most among Western Conference teams behind only the Sounders, who have reached the playoffs every year since joining MLS in 2009.

Saturday will mark the third head-to-head meeting between Sporting and Seattle this year. Aiming to keep their first-place hopes alive, Vermes' men will be encouraged by the fact that the away team has won on both previous occasions. Red-hot forward Johnny Russell, MLS MVP candidate Daniel Salloi and Academy product Cam Duke scored in a 3-1 victory at Seattle on July 25, while the Sounders returned the favor with a 2-1 triumph of their own on Sept. 26 at Children's Mercy Park as Cristian Roldan and Will Bruin found the back of the net.

Sporting have gone 7-3-3 in the last 13 regular season games against Seattle since 2015, including victories in each of their last two visits to Lumen Field. In addition to sinking the Sounders in July, Sporting claimed a 3-2 win in August 2019 against a Seattle outfit that lifted the MLS Cup three months later.

Sporting's 2-1 loss at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday saw one of the league's hottest attacking players etch his name into the Kansas City history books. With 43 minutes on the clock, Russell received a pass from Salloi and sent a fantastic curler in off the post to cut his team's deficit in half. By doing so, the Scottish captain became the first player in Sporting history to score in six consecutive MLS regular season matches.

With goals in his last six appearances, Russell is now tied with Ola Kamara of D.C. United for the longest scoring streak in MLS this season. He is one of six MLS players with 11 goals and seven assists this year alongside Salloi, whose 24 combined goals (16) and assists (eight) lead the league. Russell and Salloi have paced a potent Sporting attack that leads the West with 52 goals scored and 1.79 goals per match.

Led by sixth-year head coach Brian Schmetzer, the Sounders have hoisted the Western Conference crown in four of the last five seasons, adding MLS Cup titles in 2016 and 2019. This year's iteration of of the team appears capable of adding to the trophy cabinet, having opened the year with a record-setting 13-game unbeaten run and more recently winning eight of their last 12 matches.

The likes of star striker Raul Ruidiaz (16 goals), U.S. international midfielder Roldan (six goals, five assists), playmaker Joao Paulo (three goals, 10 assists), defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade and goalkeeper Stefan Frei have kept Seattle punching among the heavyweights, while former Sporting utility men Jimmy Medranda and Kelyn Rowe have also contributed valuably to a team that wields a league-low 0.87 goals against average.

Both teams enter the weekend with lingering injury concerns. On the Seattle sideline, Ruidiaz is a question mark after sustaining an injury with the Peru national team earlier this month. Sporting, meanwhile, will continue to play without the services of striker Alan Pulido (knee) and defender Jaylin Lindsey (hamstring). Salloi and midfield newcomer Jose Mauri are listed as questionable with ankle problems.

Beyond the context of the 2021 campaign, Sporting and Seattle have earned the right to call themselves two of the best MLS clubs over the last 10 seasons. Each team boasts four major cup titles since 2011 and the sides have combined for 19 of a possible 20 playoff appearances over the previous decade. Sporting hoisted the 2013 MLS Cup as well as Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles in 2012, 2015 and 2017. Seattle has secured two of each, winning MLS Cup in 2016 and 2019 and the Open Cup in 2011 and 2014.