Sporting Kansas City at Minnesota United FC
2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 32
Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021 | 12 p.m. CT
Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota
English TV | ESPN
Spanish TV | ESPN Deportes
Streaming | ESPN App
Spanish Radio | ESPN 94.5 FM, La Grande 1340 AM
Another highly consequential MLS match is on the horizon as Sporting Kansas City (17-7-7, 58 points) looks to improve its hold on the Western Conference away from home against rivals Minnesota United FC (12-11-9, 45 points). The third installment of Sporting versus Minnesota in 2021 is set to kick off at 12 p.m. CT at Allianz Field.
The renewed rivalry will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes with radio coverage in English on ESPN 94.5 FM and in Spanish on La Grande 1340 AM. Supporters are invited to access the Sporting KC mobile app for additional in-game updates and exclusive offers and follow @SKCMatchday on Twitter for play-by-play. Fans can also attend the official watch party at International Taphouse in the Kansas City Crossroads at 403 E 18th Street.
The current leaders in the West, Sporting Kansas City claimed three points in a 2-0 victory over the Galaxy on Wednesday. The attention now turns north as they hit the road to take on a Minnesota team currently fighting for its playoff life.
Sporting clinched a playoff berth last Saturday and a home playoff match on Wednesday. Sporting KC is one of seven teams in the West that will advance to the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs following Decision Day on Nov. 7. With the top seed in each conference receiving a first-round bye, these final three games are crucial. Sporting's 10 postseason appearances in the last 11 years are second-most among Western Conference teams behind only Seattle Sounders FC.
Sunday will mark the third time these two clubs have matched up in 2021, with Sporting taking four points across the previous two meetings. In the first match on Aug. 21, an early red card to Remi Walter in the 21st minute forced Sporting into an arduous situation. Having to play a man down for two-thirds of the match, Sporting was able to leave the Twin Cities with a hard-earned point in a 0-0 draw. In the second meeting on Sept. 15, a full-strength Sporting took care of business against Minnesota by way of a 4-0 thrashing. Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi Johnny Russell, and Cam Duke scored for Sporting, while the defense did not allow a single shot on goal.
Manager Peter Vermes has his team in form. Sporting have won four of their last five matches and earned seven results in their last 10 matches. With this impressive run of play, Sporting controls their own destiny and can clinch a Western Conference regular season title as early as Wednesday.
With 10 goals in his last eight appearances, Russell extended his Sporting KC club-record scoring streak to eight matches in the win over the Galaxy on Wednesday. He holds the longest scoring streak in MLS this season and his 21 combined goals (14) and assists (seven) ranks in the top 10 alongside teammate Daniel Salloi, whose 24 combined goals (16) and assists (eight) are tied for second most in the league. Russell and Salloi have set the tone for Sporting’s attack all season long, and are a key reason they lead the West with 56 goals scored.
In the midfield, Remi Walter and Gadi Kinda have been huge assets for Sporting. In Wednesday’s match against the Galaxy, Walter completed 35 of 35 passes while Kinda had the first multi-assist game in his two-year MLS career.
On the defensive side, Graham Zusi paced the team in tackles on Wednesday, while the rest of the backline supported 20-year-old John Pulskamp as he earned his first MLS clean sheet against the Galaxy. Zusi is approaching a major milestone, as he is 66 minutes away from reaching 25,000 career minutes played. He would become the 10th active player to reach that achievement, and one of nine all-time to do it with one club.
In his fifth year with Minnesota, English head coach Adrian Heath has had a whirlwind of a season with the Loons. The club spent the first four weeks of the MLS campaign in the bottom of the West before climbing as high as fifth. With semi-consistent results, the Loons have remained above the playoff line for a majority of 2021 but currently find themselves on the outside looking in. With just two games left on their schedule, Minnesota is deadlocked with RSL on points but loses out on the total wins tie-breaker. With a loss on Sunday, there is even a chance for Minnesota to be eliminated from playoff contention.
Led by Finnish international Robin Lod (eight goals, five assists), midfield playmaker Emanuel Reynoso (four goals, 10 assists), Argentinian forward Franco Fragapane (four goals, nine assists) and goalkeeper Tyler Miller, the Loons are desperate for points. After losing at Vancouver on Wednesday, Minnesota dropped below the playoff line.
Sporting has enjoyed success at home and on the road this season. They boast an 8-5-2 away record, winning two of their last three road contests. With another Western Conference first-place finish within grasp and Minnesota in desperation mode, the stakes have been raised yet again.