Sporting Kansas City finally returns home after playing four of their last five matches on the road when the team hosts the Portland Timbers at Children’s Mercy Park this weekend. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. CT on Sunday afternoon and will be nationally televised on FOX while also available to stream for free on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV in English and Spanish. The match will also be available on the radio locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish).
1. RETURNING HOME AT LAST
Following a brutal stretch of the schedule that saw Sporting Kansas City play five matches in 14 days, including four on the road, the team returns home this weekend to begin a stretch of six of their next nine at home - including back-to-back matches at Children’s Mercy Park this Sunday, May 28 against the Portland Timbers and on Wednesday, May 31 against FC Dallas.
Sporting saw their recent three-game unbeaten run (2-0-1) snapped with a disappointing 4-0 loss to st. louis city sc at citypark last Saturday and are currently six points below the Timbers and the playoff line. Sporting went 2-1-1 in their last four which included road games against the top three teams in the Western Conference (W 2-1 at SEA, T 1-1 at LAFC, L 0-4 at stl).
Much of Sporting’s recent uptick is due to the offense beginning to click. Sporting scored three goals in their fist 10 matches (0.3 per game) but have scored six in their last four (1.50 per game).
Sporting will have played nine of their opening 14 MLS matches away from home, tied for the fewest home games in MLS so far this season. Following their season-opening victory over Sporting on Feb. 27, Portland went winless in six from March 4 to April 8, beginning the season 1-4-2, but the Timbers have a 3-1-2 record since then.
2. LOOKING TO TOPPLE THE TIMBERS
Sporting Kansas City returns home this weekend to host the Portland Timbers at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday afternoon. Sporting are smarting from the team’s disappointing loss to st. louis city sc at citypark last Saturday but will focus on keeping the positive momentum from the team’s previous three-game unbeaten run (2-0-1).
Sporting opened the 2023 campaign in Portland with a 1-0 loss at Providence Park on Monday, Feb. 27. Originally schedule for Saturday, Feb. 25, the game was postponed two days following severe weather in Oregon. Sporting dominated much of that match three months ago but were undone by an early goal from Portland’s Juan Mosquera that was enough to seal all three points for the hosts.
Sporting last hosted the Timbers on Aug. 21, 2022 and cruised to a 4-1 victory. Willy Agada volleyed the hosts ahead in the first half before Andreu Fontas fired home a second and Erik Thommy struck a stunning third all before the halftime interval. Agada added a fourth in the second half before Sebastian Blanco tallied a consolation deep into stoppage time.
Sporting leads the all-time regular-season series with the Timbers 8-7-6, including a 4-1-4 mark at Children’s Mercy Park where Portland hasn’t won in the regular-season since 2013.
3. RUSSELL & SALLOI HEATING UP
Sporting Kansas City captain Johnny Russell and fellow forward Daniel Salloi are starting to heat up as the 2023 MLS season reaches its summer months. After combining for just one goal and zero assists through the club’s first eight matches, the duo have now combined for seven goal contributions over Sporting’s last six games.
The pair have been especially important during the team’s recent turnaround, with Salloi tallying one goal and two assists and Russell recording one goal and one assist as the team has gone 2-1-1 in their last four games after starting the season 0-7-3.
Russell reached 50 regular-season goals with his equalizer against LAFC last Wednesday and now only trails Preki (71) and Dom Dwyer (57) in the club’s all-time regular-season scoring charts.
Russell currently sits at 95 combined goals (55) and assists (40) in all competitions, while Salloi isn’t far behind with 80 combined goals (51) and assists (29).
4. RADOJA FINDING HIS RHYTHM
Sporting Kansas City holding midfielder Nemanja Radoja has started finding his feet within the league and the club over the last few weeks, overcoming a difficult hamstring injury that derailed the early parts of his season.
Radoja, an offseason free agent signing who last played for Levante in La Liga through the end of the 2021-22 season, has now started the club’s last three matches where the team has gone 1-1-1. He was particularly impressive in the 1-1 draw on the road against reigning champs LAFC last Wednesday, completing 23 of 25 passes in the attacking half, winning seven duels and led the team in both tackles (four) and recoveries (seven).
The 30-year-old Serbian will now look to cement himself as a key member of Sporting KC’s midfield, freeing Remi Walter to move back into his natural advanced midfield area after deputizing as the team’s holding midfielder during Radoja’s absence - already resulting in a pair of assists in Walter’s last three games.
5. MELIA OUT 3-4 MONTHS
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia will be sidelined for the next three to four months, Manager Peter Vermes told media earlier this week. Melia suffered the injury early in the second half of the 3-0 victory over Minnesota United FC at Children’s Mercy Park on May 13, before eventually coming off to be replaced by Kendall McIntosh in the 69th minute.
Melia was just finding his best form when the injury occurred, having kept a shutout to that point and also saved a first-half Minnesota penalty. Melia is the club’s all-time goalkeeping leader in regular-season appearances (223), shutouts (64), wins (94) and saves (645). In his stead, Sporting will rely on goalkeepers Kendall McIntosh and John Pulskamp, who have both performed well in different stages of the 2023 campaign.