Sporting Kansas City is set to resume run in the club’s Audi MLS Cup Playoffs this Sunday night when Sporting travels south to take on Houston Dynamo FC at Shell Energy Stadium in the Western Conference Semifinals. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT and will be nationally televised on FS1 as well as available to stream on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV in English and Spanish. The match will also be available on the radio locally on ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish).
1. SPORTING ADVANCES TO CONFERENCE SEMIS
Sporting Kansas City will look to pick back up where they left off as the club continues their run in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs this Sunday with a trip to take on Houston Dynamo FC at Shell Energy Stadium in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Sporting has already eliminated No. 9 San Jose and No. 1 St. Louis in the Wild Card Game and Round One, respectively, while Houston knocked out No. 5 Real Salt Lake in the Round One Best-of-3 series.
With their win over St. Louis, Sporting KC became the second No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs after 8-seed New England beat 1-seed Philadelphia in 2020, while the club is now set for its fourth conference semifinal appearance since 2018, tied for the most in MLS over the last six seasons.
Sporting, the only club to reach the U.S. Open Cup semifinals, MLS conference semifinals or Concacaf Champions League semifinals in each of the last seven seasons, will now take on perennial playoff rivals Houston who have gotten the better of Sporting in three of their four postseason showdowns (2011, 2012 and 2017), while Sporting eliminated the Dynamo on their way to claiming the 2013 MLS Cup.
2. HEADING TO H-TOWN
Sporting Kansas City is set to resume the club’s run in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs this weekend when the team travels south to take on Houston Dynamo FC in the Western Conference Semifinals at Shell Energy Stadium on Sunday. Sporting has already eliminated No. 9 seed San Jose and No. 1 seed St. Louis in the 2023 postseason, while Houston knocked out No. 5 seed Real Salt Lake in Round One.
Sporting claimed the season series over Houston in the 2023 MLS regular season, going 1-0-1. Sporting first settled for a point on July 8 with a 2-2 draw at Shell Energy Stadium. Alan Pulido twice gave Sporting the lead but Houston equalized in first and second-half stoppage time to salvage a draw.
The return fixture took place at Children’s Mercy Park on Sept. 23, with Sporting holding on for a 2-1 win. Johnny Russell gave Sporting an early lead from the spot before being shown a straight red card following a VAR review later in the first half. Willy Agada doubled the lead before Teenage Hadebe pulled a goal back on the stroke of halftime but Sporting held on with 10 men through the second half to pick up all three points.
3. PULIDO NAMED COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Sporting Kansas City striker Alan Pulido has been voted the 2023 MLS Comeback Player of the Year, Major League Soccer announced on Nov. 15.
Pulido has enjoyed a sensational 2023 campaign after missing the entire 2022 season following knee surgery. The Mexican forward made his return following 16 months out on April 1, 2023 and claimed the club’s Golden Boot and Most Valuable Player awards with 15 goals and six assists in all competitions to date this season, including three assists in Sporting’s upset of No. 1 seed St. Louis in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Pulido, who recently extended his contract with the club through 2026, first joined Sporting in 2020 and was named a MLS Newcomer of the Year finalist while winning the club’s Golden Boot and Offensive Player of the Year award in his first season. From 2020 to 2023, the World Cup veteran has tallied 30 goals and 14 assists in 69 matches across all competitions.
In June, Pulido was named MLS Player of the Month with a club-record six goals en route to becoming the second player in Sporting history to score 12 goals in a span of 12 consecutive regular season matches from June 3 to Sept. 9.
4. KINDA SHINES FOR CLUB & COUNTRY
Sporting Kansas City Designated Player Gadi Kinda has enjoyed a productive month for both club and country, tallying a goal and three assists in the MLS Cup Playoffs Round One Best-of-3 series victory over St. Louis before scoring his second career goal for Israel during the international break.
Kinda entered Game 2 of the Best-of-3 series having tallied a goal and two assists in the 4-1 victory in Game 1 and picked up where he’d left off, setting up Daniel Salloi’s game-winning goal in the second half to help Sporting sweep their cross-state rivals.
During the international break, Kinda started two of Israel’s four UEFA 2024 Euro Qualifying matches, earning his sixth and seventh caps for his country. Kinda scored his second international goal with a late strike in the 2-0 win over Andorra on Nov. 21.
After missing all of the 2022 campaign following knee surgery, Kinda has shone in limited time this season, tallying five goals and eight assists in all competitions in just 1,328 minutes played. Kinda has averaged a goal or assist every 102 minutes in 2023, the best mark on the team.
5. SALLOI BAGS SERIES-WINNER vs. STL
Sporting Kansas City forward Daniel Salloi continued his hot form as Sporting eliminated No. 1 seed St. Louis from the MLS Cup Playoffs with a sweep in the Round One Best-of-3 series, tallying a goal and an assist in each of the two matches as Sporting won 4-1 on the road and 2-1 at home. In Game 2, Salloi fired home the second and decisive goal in the second half to seal victory at Children’s Mercy Park.
Salloi’s performances in the 2023 postseason has seen him rise up the charts in Sporting’s playoff history. Salloi now has five goals and four assists in 10 MLS Cup Playoffs appearances for Sporting, totaling nine goal contributions which now leads the active roster and ranks second in club history, only trailing Sporting Legend Preki’s 12.
The Hungarian international and Sporting KC Academy product has enjoyed a productive season in 2023, tallying 10 goals and 12 assists across all competitions for the club, leading the club with 22 goal contributions, one ahead of Alan Pulido’s 21.