Match Preview - Sporting KC at Seattle Sounders FC - July 25, 2021

Sporting Kansas City at Seattle Sounders FC
2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 15
Sunday, July 25, 2021 | 8 p.m. CT
Lumen Field | Seattle, Washington

Broadcast Schedule:
English TV
| Bally Sports Kansas City
English TV | Bally Sports Midwest
Streaming | BallySports.com and Bally Sports app
English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM

A titanic Western Conference clash beckons on Sunday night as second-place Sporting Kansas City (8-3-3, 27 points) ventures west to battle first-place Seattle Sounders FC (9-1-5, 32 points) in the most consequential match of the 2021 MLS regular season to date.

Sunday's top-of-the-table encounter will kick off at 8 p.m. CT and supporters can catch the action live on Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Midwest, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app with three hours of coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT. The contest will also air live locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately following on 810 WHB. Additionally, fans are invited to attend any location within the Sporting Pub Network, including No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District, for a soccer-centric watch party experience.

Sporting and Seattle have been two of Major League Soccer's most impressive sides through the first three months of the 2021 campaign and are slated to meet on three occasions over the next three months. Consequently, Sunday's game could prove to be a significant tone setter as both clubs continue the race for first place in the West.

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Led by two-time MLS Cup champion head coach Brian Schmetzer, Seattle sits at the summit of the Supporters' Shield standings with 32 points and a 9-1-5 record. Five points behind—and with a game in hand—are Sporting, who will enter Sunday with every intention of giving the Sounders their first home defeat of the year.

Boasting one of the best attacks in MLS, Sporting has ridden the coattails of Daniel Salloi and Alan Pulido while also receiving boosts from a balanced midfield corps, savvy center back pairing Andreu Fontas and Ilie Sanchez and a slew of Sporting KC Academy products. The Sounders, meanwhile, have seen Raul Ruidiaz light up the league with 11 goals with additional contributions from playmaker Joao Paulo and standout defenders Brad Smith and Yeimar Gomez Andrade.

Pulido and midfielder Gianluca Busio are on Gold Cup duty with Mexico and the United States, respectively, meaning that Sporting will have two notable holes to fill. Ilie, Roger Espinoza, Remi Walter and Cam Duke—who delivered an excellent performance in Wednesday’s 1-1 home draw against San Jose—are all capable of patrolling the center of the park, while the likes of Khiry Shelton and Wilson Harris could spearhead the attack alongside wingers Salloi and captain Johnny Russell.

On the opposite sideline, Seattle posted an eye-opening 1-0 road win over Austin FC on Thursday night despite missing 10 players through injury, international duty or suspension. The Sounders’ lineup included a remarkable five teenagers—namely Ethan Dobbelaere, Reed Baker-Whiting, Danny Leyva, Josh Atencio and Obed Vargas—who performed admirably in the absence of several hobbled players as well as brothers Alex and Christian Roldan, who are on international duty at the Gold Cup. Schmetzer will almost certainly be forced to flex his team’s depth once again on Sunday.

Ruidiaz (11 goals), Joao Paulo (five assists), Smith (three goals, three assists) and Gomez Andrade (the MLS leader in clearances and interceptions) have shouldered instrumental roles for the league’s best team. What makes Seattle’s start even more impressive is the fact that several standouts—including forward Jordan Morris, midfield talisman Nicolas Lodeiro, goalkeeper Stefan Frei, striker Will Bruin and defender Nouhou Tolo—have missed significant time nursing injuries.

Lumen Field has become a near-unconquerable fortress for the Sounders. This season alone, Seattle is unbeaten at home with a 5-0-3 record, five shutouts, 16 goals scored and four goals conceded. Since losing 2-1 to Portland on Sept. 6, 2020, the Sounders have gone unbeaten in 17 MLS home matches (including playoffs) with 13 wins and four draws. Perhaps more impressively, since taking a 3-2 home loss to Sporting on Aug. 4, 2019—the last time the teams faced each other—Schmetzer’s men have lost only once in 31 MLS home games (22-1-8 record).

Sporting and Seattle share a colorful head-to-head history, headlined by a dramatic 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final that saw Manager Peter Vermes’ side prevail on penalty kicks at Children’s Mercy Park. The Sounders lead the regular season series with a 9-7-4 record, including a 5-3-2 mark at Lumen Field, but Sporting have gone 6-2-3 in the last 11 meetings since 2015 after losing seven of the first nine from 2009-2014.

Sporting have won each of the last two meetings by a 3-2 scoreline, with Russell scoring a hat trick the last time Seattle visited Kansas City on May 26, 2019. The previous four battles between the teams since 2018 have produced 18 total goals, a clip of 4.5 per match.

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