Sporting Kansas City is set to open the club’s 28th season in Major League Soccer this upcoming Monday night with a trip to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Monday, Feb. 27. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. CT and is available to watch for free on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app in both English and Spanish.
The match was originally scheduled for Saturday night but with severe weather in Oregon, the game was pushed back two days.
1. STARTING NEW SEASON FULL OF OPTIMISM
Sporting Kansas City are set to open their 28th Major League Soccer season this Monday when the team travels to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Sporting missed the postseason for just the second time in the last 12 seasons in 2022 despite rallying from a challenging start to post a 6-2-2 record over their last 10 matches - the second best record in the league during that time.
The Timbers also missed the postseason in 2022 despite finishing with a winning record (11-10-13), one of just two clubs last season to miss the postseason with more wins than losses. Boosted by the addition of Brazilian playmaker Evander, Portland will be looking to join Sporting back in the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2023.
Sporting KC has an excellent record in the opening weekend of a season - the team actually leads MLS with 15 season-opening wins all-time, posting a 15-8-4 record in Week 1. Over the previous seven seasons, Sporting has gone 3-3-1 in season openers, beating Seattle, Vancouver and the New York Red Bulls in 2016, 2020, and 2021 respectively, falling to New York City, LAFC and Atlanta United FC in 2018, 2019, and 2022 while also playing to a scoreless draw against D.C. United in 2017.
2. OPENING 2023 IN PORTLAND
Sporting Kansas City is set to open the 2023 MLS regular season this Monday night with a visit to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park in Oregon. Sporting will be looking to get off to a winning start in 2023, as the club leads MLS with 15 season-opening wins since their inaugural season in 1996.
Providence Park proved to be a house of horrors for Sporting last season, with the team suffering a 7-2 defeat in Oregon on May 14, 2022. Goals from Johnny Russell and Marinos Tzionis proved to be scant consolation following an onslaught of goals from Portland’s Bill Tuiloma, Sebastian Blanco (2), Nathan Fogaca (2), Marvin Loria and Santiago Moreno.
Sporting enjoyed revenge with a dominant victory of their own in the return fixture at Children’s Mercy Park on Aug. 21, 2022. Newly signed forward Willy Agada bagged a brace in the match with the first and final Sporting goals of the day, bookending strikes from Andreu Fontas and Erik Thommy before Blanco tallied a stoppage-time consolation.
Sporting leads the all-time series 8-6-6 with a 4-5-2 mark at Providence Park. Sporting’s last victory in Oregon came in early 2017 with a 1-0 win behind Dom Dwyer’s header.
3. VERMES SIGNS FIVE-YEAR EXTENSION
Sporting Kansas City has signed Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes to a five-year contract extension through the 2028 season, the club announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Entering his 15th season as Sporting’s manager, Vermes has hoisted four major championships - the 2013 MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups in 2012, 2015 and 2017 - while leading the club to 10 playoff appearances, fourth most by a head coach in MLS history. He is the league’s fourth-winningest coach all-time with 183 regular season victories and his four major trophies rank third among active head coaches behind only Bruce Arena (New England Revolution) and Bob Bradley (Toronto FC). He is also the only active MLS manager to win three U.S. Open Cup titles.
Vermes, who began his current role in 2009, is the longest-tenured head coach in MLS history and one of the longest-serving managers in global soccer. He has coached 516 matches for Sporting in all competitions—more than half of the games in the club’s 28-year existence and the most ever for a manager at one MLS club—and sits fourth on the MLS charts with 437 regular season games coached. His 15-season run at the helm of Sporting is the longest in Kansas City professional sports history.
4. FULL SEASON OF AGADA & THOMMY
When Sporting Kansas City brought in striker Willy Agada and attacking midfielder Erik Thommy in the summer of 2022, few believed the pair would have an impact that would require the whole league to take notice.
Yet that’s exactly what happened, as Agada plundered home eight goals to go along with two assists, while Thommy added two goals and three assists over the last 10 matches of the campaign. Agada ended the season fifth with a 114.75 minutes per goal ratio, while Thommy was in the 93rd percentile and above for a host of categories among midfielders, including non-penalty goals, shots, shot-creating actions, progressive carries, successful take-ons and more.
Now, with a full preseason with the club under their belt, Agada and Thommy will look to join forces with the returning Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda to fire Sporting back into the MLS postseason and into contention for silverware once again.
5. NEWCOMERS LOOK TO MAKE AN IMPACT
Sporting Kansas City enters the 2023 season with a roster bolstered by five defensive additions with a pair of new holding midfielders in Nemanja Radoja and Danny Flores, along with left back Tim Leibold and center backs Robert Castellanos and Chris Rindov.
Radoja, a 30-year-old Serbian international, arrives after logging 181 appearances in Spain’s La Liga with Celta Vigo and Levante. Similarly, Leibold too brings European experience after amassing more than 20 goals and 40 assists in nearly 300 professional appearances in his native Germany.
Flores, 20, begins his professional career after two years at Virginia Tech and three seasons in the USL Championship with Philadelphia Union II and Oakland Roots SC. Castellanos, 24, arrives in KC following a brief stint with KuPS in Finland and has extensive experience in the USL Championship along with a season in MLS with Nashville SC in 2021. Rindov signed as the club’s second round pick in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft (37th overall) out of Maryland, where he was a defensive mainstay, starting in each of the program’s 38 matches over the last two seasons and finishing his college career with four goals and five assists in 58 appearances
The quintet provide new options for Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes, who can continue to acquire players during Major League Soccer’s primary transfer window – which closes on April 24 – as well as the secondary transfer window from July 5 to August 2.