Sporting Kansas City opens the club’s Audi MLS Cup Playoffs campaign on Wednesday night when San Jose pays a visit to Children’s Mercy Park in the Western Conference Wild Card Match. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. CT and will be available to stream 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).
Sporting Kansas City completed the stunning turnaround of the club’s 2023 season on Saturday night, beating Minnesota United FC 3-1 at Children’s Mercy Park to leap into eighth in the West and clinch a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Sporting came out flying after the Leagues Cup break, winning six of nine matches and taking 2 points per game to surge up the standings. Sporting’s six wins since the Leagues Cup were the second most in MLS, while the team won six of the club’s final nine regular season matches for just the third time in club history, equaling a feat first accomplished in 2013 and 2020.
Most impressive, Sporting became the first club in MLS history to make the MLS Cup Playoffs after opening the regular season winless in their first 10 games.
From the start of May to the end of the 2023 regular season, Sporting led the Western Conference in points (41), wins (12) and goals per game (1.88) while ranking second in goal differential (+10). Sporting’s seven losses during that time were also tied for the fewest in the conference.
2. SKC HOSTS SAN JOSE FOR PLAYOFF REMATCH
Sporting Kansas City produced one of the most dramatic turnarounds in MLS history during the final two thirds of the 2023 MLS campaign, culminating in an eighth place finish and clinching a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Sporting begins their postseason with a home game against the San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference Wild Card Match on Wednesday night.
Sporting won the most recent showdown with the ‘Quakes on Aug. 26 at Children’s Mercy Park 3-0 courtesy of goals from Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russell and Erik Thommy. Earlier this season, San Jose cruised to a 3-0 win of their own at PayPal Park back on April 15 when the hosts took advantage of Robert Castellanos’ first-half red card to run out 3-0 winners following a brace from Jeremy Ebobisse and a Cristian Espinoza strike.
Wednesday’s Wild Card Match is a rematch of the opening round of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs when Sporting and San Jose played to a wild 3-3 draw at Children’s Mercy Park before Sporting advanced 3-0 on penalty kicks after goalkeeper Tim Melia saved all three Earthquakes penalty attempts in the shootout.
Since late 2016, Sporting has gone 9-2-3 against San Jose with a 6-0-1 mark at Children’s Mercy Park. All-time, Sporting is 30-26-10 against the Earthquakes, including a 23-8-2 record at home.
3. RUSSELL NAMED MLS PLAYER OF THE MATCHDAY
Sporting Kansas City captain Johnny Russell was voted the Major League Soccer Player of the Matchday presented by Continental Tire for Matchday 38 of the 2023 season, MLS announced on Monday.
Russell scored twice in Sporting KC’s 3-1 victory over Minnesota United FC at Children’s Mercy Park on the final day of the MLS regular season on Saturday to clinch Sporting’s berth in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Russell opened the scoring in the 28th minute when he dribbled at a Minnesota defender, cut onto his left foot, and fired a curling effort into the side-netting to give Sporting a 1-0 advantage. Russell solidified all three points in the 78th minute when he chased down Loons defender Michael Boxall and blocked the clearance into the air, which he volleyed home from close range to seal a postseason spot.
The Scottish skipper recorded the seventh multi-goal match of his Sporting career, tying Preki for third most in club history, and his 11 regular season goals during the month of October are most all-time for the team. Russell has scored in each of his last three matches and finished the 2023 regular season campaign with eight goals, joining Dom Dwyer (2014-16) and Preki (1996-98) as the only KC players to score eight goals in three consecutive seasons.
4. SALLOI SHINES IN CRUCIAL SEASON-FINALE
Sporting Kansas City forward Daniel Salloi was named to the bench of the MLS Team of the Matchday following a hugely influential performance in Sporting’s 3-1 Decision Day victory over Minnesota United FC on Saturday night.
Playing his 250th professional match, Salloi set up Sporting’s first two goals on Saturday with a pair of assists less than three minutes apart. The Sporting KC Academy product earned the game-winning assist in the 31st minute and, in doing so, tied Davy Arnaud for fifth on the club’s all-time chart with 77 goal contributions (45 goals, 32 assists).
Salloi ended the regular season with seven goals and nine assists, finishing in a tie for second on the team alongside Erik Thommy with 16 goal contributions (one behind Alan Pulido). In all competitions, the trio all finished with 18 goal involvements.
5. WALTER SCORES MASSIVE GAME-WINNER
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Remi Walter picked the best time to score just his second goal of the 2023 season when he popped up in the 31st minute of Sporting’s 3-1 victory over Minnesota United FC to tuck away his team’s second goal and the eventual match winner on Saturday night.
Walter raced from midfield to meet Daniel Salloi’s cross from the left wing and slotted the ball home on his weaker right foot to double the home side’s lead on the night.
It was Walter’s second goal of the campaign, both of which have been game-winners and both of which have come on the Frenchman’s right foot having also scored the opener in the 3-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC on July 1.
Walter has been a stalwart in the midfield for Sporting since joining the club ahead of the 2021 season, tallying six goals and nine assists in 107 appearances across all competitions.