Sporting Kansas City will host the Vancouver Whitecaps in a rematch of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs Round One match that took place on Nov. 20, 2021. Children’s Mercy Park will be the backdrop for the Western Conference matchup, with kickoff set for 8 p.m. CT on 38 The Spot.
Saturday’s match will wrap up a busy May for Sporting KC in which they played in seven competitive matches in a 22-day span dating back to May 7. Sporting has posted a 3-1-2 record so far this month and will look to ride the momentum from their exciting, 2-1 win on Wednesday over the Houston Dynamo in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Here are five things to know about as Sporting Kansas City takes on the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS regular season play on Saturday.
May was the month of midweek matches for Sporting KC as they partook in three of them. The squad proved up to the task, prevailing in all three of their weekday contests. Sporting kicked off the craziness with a 4-2 comeback victory against FC Dallas in the Open Cup Round of 32. They followed that up with a regular season road loss at Portland but got back on track with an eventful 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids.
Most recently, Sporting welcomed the Dynamo to Children’s Mercy Park in a consequential cup tie with a quarterfinals spot on the line. After Corey Baird gave Houston the lead right on the cusp of halftime, Johnny Russell kicked it into high gear in the second. The captain scored a superb solo goal and perfectly placed a penalty past the keeper to give Sporting a 2-1 lead. The defense held and Sporting will now host Union Omaha on Wednesday, June 22 in the Open Cup quarters.
Vancouver had a wild midweek as well, being taken all the way to penalties by Canadian Premier League side Cavalry FC in the Canadian Championship quarterfinals. All five Whitecaps kick takers converted after Vancouver drew level with Cavalry in the 85th minute of regulation time.
Cruising at CMP
Children’s Mercy Park has been in impeccable form this season with Sporting KC going 5-1-2 at home in all competitions in 2022. Sporting has enjoyed five straight results in front of the home fans, with the lone loss coming back on April 9 against Nashville SC. In the Blue Hell, Sporting KC has posted 13 goals and conceded just eight times. The energy at Children’s Mercy Park has been motivational for Sporting as they have scored the first goal in five of six home matches this season, with the sixth match being a scoreless draw against Columbus.
Whitecaps woes away from home
While Sporting has found success at home, Saturday’s opponent has yet to find their footing away from BC Place. The Whitecaps have lost all six of their road matches and are the only MLS side without a road result this season. Vancouver has found the back of the net just four times and leaked 16 goals in their six road contests this season. While traveling, they have not scored more than one goal this season. Vancouver played host to Sporting in April, claiming all three points in a 1-0 victory. Saturday marks the final meeting in the regular season between the Western Conference clubs.
Sporting’s scary attack
A terrifying prospect for defenses everywhere, the Sporting KC offense is beginning to round into form. The usual suspects on the offensive side have begun to heat up as Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell have fired home four times apiece this regular season. On May 18 against Colorado, Salloi’s brace propelled Sporting KC to a big regular season victory. Last Sunday, Russell’s lone goal gave Sporting a road point at San Jose and Wednesday night’s brace lifted Sporting past Houston.
Helping Russell and Salloi out has been midfielder Remi Walter. Walter’s two goals this season already have him tied for a career-high in goals in a season. Roger Espinoza has netted one goal this season, and newcomer Marinos Tzionis has scored once in regular season play and forced extra time with a goal in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time against FC Dallas in the Open Cup. Two Sporting KC Academy Products pace the club in assists as Felipe Hernandez and Cam Duke have three assists each.
MLS Cup Playoffs rematch
Last November, Sporting KC knocked Vancouver out of MLS Cup contention with a 3-1 thumping at Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting quelled the red-hot Whitecaps who made an impressive run in the tail end of the 2021 MLS season to earn their first playoff berth since 2017. Vanni Sartini, who at the time was still the interim head coach, could not crack Sporting KC’s Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes’ tactics.
Khiry Shelton fired the hosts out in front with an acrobatic goal in the 17th minute that gave Graham Zusi a club-record seventh playoff assist. Cristian Dajome equalized off a penalty before Nicolas Isimat-Mirin regained the lead in first-half stoppage time with his first Sporting goal. Zusi put the cherry on top in the second half, uncorking one from way far away and placing it perfectly in the upper-90.
Saturday at 8 p.m. CT Vancouver returns to Children’s Mercy Park for the first time since that November night. Fans can purchase tickets online at SeatGeek.com or watch the rematch on 38 The Spot and in the Sporting KC Mobile App.