"Five Things" is a season-long series presented by the Children's Mercy Sports Medicine Center that highlights the top storylines and players to watch ahead of each match. To visit the series archive, click here.
Riding a five-game unbeaten streak as one of the most impressive sides in MLS, Sporting Kansas City (9-3-3, 30 points) will return to Children's Mercy Park on Saturday to host longtime rivals FC Dallas (3-7-5, 14 points) in the annual Sporting Salutes match presented by Hallmark.
Saturday's showdown is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT and tickets are available at SeatGeek.com, including Coca-Cola Family Four Packs that bundle four general admission tickets in the South Stand, four Coca-Cola products and four Domino's pizzas. At the forefront of Sporting Salutes, Sporting will recognize five military honorees in an on-field ceremony and SportingStyle locations inside the stadium will offer a variety of limited-edition camo merchandise.
Supporters following from home can catch the game live on Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app as well as Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
Without further ado, we examine five major storylines surrounding the contest in the space below.
1. Sporting Salutes
As mentioned above, Sporting Kansas City will honor the service and sacrifice of military members and their families this weekend when the club hosts its fourth annual Sporting Salutes match. This year, Sporting Salutes will welcome military medical personnel who have served on the frontlines battling COVID-19 in Kansas, Missouri and beyond. Five military honorees will be honored during an on-field ceremony before kickoff, featuring representation from the U.S. Navy, the Kansas National Guard and the U.S. Air Force’s 303rd Fighter Squadron.
Upon entering through the Children’s Mercy Park gates under camouflage netting, supporters will have the opportunity to explore five military vehicles stationed across the Mazuma Plaza. Fans can also visit SportingStyle locations inside the stadium to shop from a variety of camo merchandise while supplies last, including the limited-edition Sporting Salutes Camo Training Top and Scarf of the Match, two different Salute to Service caps and the Camo Top Koozie.
2. Riding High
Sporting are 7-1-2 in their last 10 matches and on Sunday posted a statement 3-1 road victory over first-place Seattle Sounders FC. Manager Peter Vermes' men are three points shy of first place in the Supporters' Shield race, owning a game in hand on leaders New England Revolution, and haven't lost at Children's Mercy Park since September 2020. In fact, Sporting's 11-game home unbeaten run in the regular season is the third longest in club history.
Red-hot forward Daniel Salloi has led the way for a Sporting attack that leads MLS with 1.87 goals per match. The 25-year-old Sporting KC Academy product tops the league charts with 12 combined goals (nine) and primary assists (three) as well as five game-winning goals. Elsewhere, captain Johnny Russell, center back Andreu Fontas, freshly fit defender Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and emerging midfielder Cam Duke have helped Sporting stay near the top of the table.
3. Something's Gotta Give
Led by head coach Luchi Gonzalez, FC Dallas boasts an impressive record against Sporting in recent meetings. The Texas side has four wins and a draw in the last five head-to-head matchups and wields a 3-0-1 record in its last four visits to Children's Mercy Park. That certainly paints a positive picture for the visitors.
But here's something that paints an equally bleak picture: FC Dallas have lost all seven away matches this season and their eight-game road losing streak dating back to the end of 2020 is the longest in team history. Dallas have gone unbeaten at home in 2021, collecting three wins and five draws, but their seven defeats on the road have condemned the club to 10th place in the West.
4. Rising Stars
Saturday's match will feature a pair of MLS originals that take pride in developing homegrown talent. On the Sporting sideline, the likes of Salloi, Duke, Gianluca Busio (likely to miss out Saturday on international duty), Jaylin Lindsey, Kaveh Rad, Wilson Harris and Felipe Hernandez have collectively accounted for 15 of Sporting's 28 goals and nine of 23 assists this year.
Dallas, meanwhile, has seen 18-year-old forward Ricardo Pepi blossom into one of the best teenage attackers in American soccer. The U.S. youth international ranks fifth in MLS with eight goals and erupted for a hat trick in a 4-0 home triumph against the LA Galaxy last Saturday.
5. PV Goes for 200
After missing each of the last two matches due to health and safety protocols, Vermes is back at the helm for Sporting. Should he lead his team to victory on Saturday, it would be his 200th coaching win for the club in all competitions.