Sporting Kansas City at LAFC
2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 23
Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 | 9 p.m. CT
Banc of California Stadium | Los Angeles, California
English TV | Bally Sports KC Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus
Spanish TV | UniMas, TUDN
Streaming | BallySports.com, Bally Sports app, @TUDNUSA Twitter
English Radio | ESPN 94.5 FM
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
The Hollywood lights will shine bright on Sporting Kansas City (11-4-7, 40 points) and LAFC (6-9-6, 24 points) when the clubs square off for the third time this season in a pivotal Western Conference clash on Friday.
Kickoff at Banc of California Stadium is set for 9 p.m. CT with three hours of local coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. CT on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app. The contest will also air live nationally in Spanish on UniMas and TUDN while streaming in English at @TUDNUSA on Twitter.
Listeners can catch the action locally on ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM and all supporters are invited to attend the official watch party for the match at The Other Place in Shawnee, Kansas (22730 Midland Dr.) with programming and specials starting at 8:30 p.m. CT. The Sporting KC app will provide additional in-game updates and exclusive offers.
Two points behind Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting secured a 1-1 home draw with the third-place Colorado Rapids last Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park. Captain Johnny Russell bagged a stunning free kick in the 41st minute after Jonathan Lewis had fired Colorado ahead in the 17th minute. Russell, who has four goals and five assists this year, ranks second in MLS with four goals from direct free kicks since the start of 2019. His strike last weekend notably moved him level with Graham Zusi for ninth on the club’s all-time chart with 29 career goals in the regular season.
Sporting have enjoyed tremendous success away from home in 2021—their 6-3-2 record, 18 goals and plus-eight goal differential are all the second-best road marks in MLS—and when they take the field on Friday, Manager Peter Vermes’ men will be on the precipice of history. Sporting are 4-0-2 in their last six away games, outscoring opponents 11-2. With a win or a draw against LAFC, they would equal the club’s longest ever road unbeaten streak in the regular season.
Sporting’s penchant for posting shutouts has coincided with their imperious road form. Thanks to standout displays from goalkeeper Tim Melia, center back Andreu Fontas, the versatile Ilie Sanchez and outside backs Zusi and Luis Martins, Sporting have collected three straight road shutouts for only the fourth time in team history. Another clean sheet on Friday would see Sporting equal the single-season club record of four straight road shutouts set in 2012.
Melia and Fontas have anchored Sporting’s ever-improving defense over the course of 2021. The former ranks third in MLS with a 0.88 goals against average, conceding just 15 goals in his 17 appearances. Fontas, meanwhile, leads MLS in several advanced statistical categories such as goals added, progressive passing distance and successful pressure percentage.
LAFC, the 2019 Supporters’ Shield champions and 2020 Concacaf Champions League runners-up, are currently mired in a historic slump. Head coach Bob Bradley’s side is winless in eight straight games since mid-July, the longest skid ever for a team that entered MLS in 2018. LAFC have taken a single point from their last five matches, although they did snap a four-game losing streak with a thrilling 3-3 home draw against rivals LA Galaxy last Saturday. While Sporting lead the league with 19 points gained from losing positions in 2021, LAFC have suffered from the opposite narrative: their 19 points dropped from winning positions is the most in MLS.
Both teams will be forced to exercise their squad depth on Friday due to international absences. On the Sporting sideline, MLS All-Star forward Daniel Salloi is with Hungary and midfielder Gadi Kinda is with Israel. Salloi tops the MLS charts with 18 combined goals (12) and assists (six) this year, while Kinda has added four goals and three assists of his own.
LAFC will be without four players, all of whom play significant roles on the team. Brian Rodriguez, who scored twice last weekend against the Galaxy, has joined Uruguay and Kim Moon-Hwan, who scored in a 2-1 loss to Sporting on June 26, is with South Korea. Ecuador duo Jose Cifuentes and Diego Palacios will also be unavailable for selection.
Additionally, prolific LAFC winger Diego Rossi has left the club to join Turkish side Fenerbahce at the close of the European transfer window. The status of standout forward Carlos Vela is also up in the air, as the Mexican missed the MLS All-Star Game on Aug. 25 and the Galaxy match three days later with a quad injury.
Sporting will be looking to complete a three-game sweep of LAFC after claiming wins in both previous meetings this year. Salloi and Alan Pulido struck in a 2-1 home win at the end of June as well as a 4-1 victory on Aug. 4, which stands as LAFC’s heaviest defeat ever at Banc of California Stadium. Martins and Kinda also scored in the one-sided encounter, which served as the first of four consecutive defeats for LAFC to open the month of August. Only the LA Galaxy (five wins) have more all-time regular season victories against LAFC than Sporting's four (4-2-0 record).