Sporting Kansas City heads east this weekend to take on cross-state rival St. Louis at Citypark on Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT and will be available to stream for free on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV in English and Spanish, while the match will also be available on the radio locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish).
1. CRUNCH TIME FOR PLAYOFF OUTLOOK
It’s getting down to crunch time for Sporting Kansas City’s MLS Cup Playoffs hopes, with the club knowing that they likely need two wins from their final three matches to clinch a spot in the postseason. Sporting has won four of their six matches since the Leagues Cup break, beating San Jose, St. Louis, Minnesota and Houston while suffering a pair of tough losses at Miami and home to Nashville.
Sporting showed the type of heart and grit required to produce one of the most impressive turnarounds from early season form when the team played down a man for 51 minutes of regulation play and 18 minutes of first and second-half stoppage time to beat Houston Dynamo FC 2-1 last Saturday night.
Sporting is now set to travel cross-state to face St. Louis at Citypark knowing that the side needs to take three points either from their geographic rivals or the following Saturday against long-time foes Real Salt Lake at America First Field. The squad travels to St. Louis without influential captain Johnny Russell, who will serve a one-game suspension following his red card in the win over Houston and failed midweek appeal.
Since the start of May, Sporting have gone 10-6-5 in MLS play, scoring 38 goals along the way after going 0-7-3 and scoring just three goals in its first 10 league matches through the end of April. In that span, Sporting lead the Western Conference in wins (10), points (35), goals (38), goals per match (1.81) and goal differential (+9).
2. HEADING BACK CROSS-STATE
Sporting Kansas City hits the road this weekend for the third and final chapter of their cross-state rivalry with St. Louis in 2023. Both sides have earned some bragging rights to this point with both teams claiming victories on home patch already this season.
Sporting will be returning to Citypark on Saturday where the side suffered their most lopsided defeat of the year on May 20, as St. Louis took advantage of some tired Sporting KC legs and some questionable refereeing to race into a 2-0 halftime lead before adding another two goals in the second half while Sporting chased the game.
Sporting earned some revenge from that match on Sept. 2 when St. Louis visited Children’s Mercy Park for the first time ever. Despite falling behind to Sam Adeniran’s powerful strike, Sporting hit back before the halftime interval with a brace from star forward Alan Pulido to claim all three points.
The season and all-time series is split 1-1-0 following those two matches earlier this year against the expansion side. A victory is much more imperative for Sporting than St. Louis this weekend, as the hosts sit top of the West with an eight-point cushion on second place LAFC, while Sporting knows the side will likely have to win two of their final three games to clinch a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
3. AGADA BACK ON THE SCORESHEET
Sporting Kansas City forward Willy Agada earned a rare start last Saturday and made the most of it, firing home the game-winning goal in the 2-1 victory over Houston Dynamo FC at Children’s Mercy Park.
With Sporting up a goal and down a man following Johnny Russell’s penalty kick and subsequent red card, Agada pounced on a loose ball in the box in first-half stoppage time to give his side a two-goal lead on the night. Due to Russell’s red card, Agada was withdrawn at halftime in place of defensive midfielder Remi Walter.
Agada has now scored 10 MLS regular-season goals for Sporting KC since joining the club last summer. His 10 goals have come in just 1,590 minutes - a mark of 0.57 goals per 90 minutes. Agada has scored nine goals in his nine regular season starts at Children’s Mercy Park dating back to July 2022.
4. DAVIS, MELIA & VERMES EARN WEEKLY HONORS
Sporting Kansas City defender Jake Davis, goalkeeper Tim Melia and Manager Peter Vermes were all honored with spots in the MLS Team of the Matchday following last Saturday’s gritty 2-1 victory over Houston Dynamo FC at Children’s Mercy Park.
Despite playing down a man for more than an hour after a controversial first-half red card to Johnny Russell, Sporting struck for the game-winning goal while playing shorthanded and held off Houston defensively to snap the Dynamo’s seven-match unbeaten run.
Melia made five saves - none bigger than his stop on Corey Baird in second-half stoppage time - to earn his 100th career win in MLS competitions for Sporting Kansas City, while the 21-year-old Davis led the team with 69 touches, 41 passes, 12 possessions won, nine final-third entries and two chances created.
Vermes was named MLS Coach of the Matchday for managing the precarious situation to perfection, with Sporting limiting Houston to just six shots after the red card.
5. RUSSELL SUSPENDED FOR ST. LOUIS CLASH
Sporting Kansas City will be missing a key part of the squad when the team heads east to take on St. Louis this weekend, as captain Johnny Russell will be serving a one-game suspension following his red card in the 2-1 victory over Houston Dynamo FC last Saturday.
Russell slid in to challenge Nelson Quinones on the sideline and saw his foot roll over the top of the ball before catching Quinones in the leg. After a throw-in was awarded on the field, VAR Daniel Radford signaled head referee Chris Penso over to the monitor and after a lengthy review, he sent Russell off.
Sporting’s appeal of Russell’s red card was denied by the Independent Review Panel on Wednesday afternoon.