Sporting Kansas City heads east for a Western Conference match at Nashville SC on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff for the match is set for 5 p.m. CT and will air nationally on FS1 and Fox Deportes.
Sunday marks the third-ever meeting between Sporting and Nashville. The second all-time match came on April 9, 2022, with Nashville leaving Kansas City with a 2-1 win. Sporting has not played a road MLS match since May 22 when they drew 1-1 at San Jose off a Johnny Russell goal right before halftime.
Below are five storylines to keep in mind for Sunday’s matinee match between Sporting Kansas City and Nashville SC.
First visit to Nashville
Since beginning play in 1996, Sporting KC has played one match in Nashville, a 1998 U.S. Open Cup round of 16 loss to the Nashville Metros. With Nashville entering MLS in the wild season that was the 2020 season and moving to the Eastern Conference in 2021 Sporting has not had the pleasure of playing in Nashville since 1998. Sunday presents Sporting the opportunity to get their first-ever win in Music City. The two sides have only met on two occasions overall with the series rather close.
As even as it gets
Sporting and Nashville have only played each other twice with both matches taking place at world-class Children’s Mercy Park. In the first rendition, Sporting KC got the better of Nashville 2-1 on Oct. 11, 2020. After defender Walker Zimmerman scored for Nashville in the 14th, two second half goals from Sporting KC erased the deficit and lifted them past Nashville.
In the second all-time meeting earlier this year Nashville gave Sporting a taste of their own medicine, erasing a one-goal halftime deficit with two goals in the second. In the first half, Tim Melia did Melia things saving a penalty and Remi Walter struck for Sporting giving him his second goal of the season. Nashville’s two-goal second evened the series at one win apiece with each team scoring three and conceding three. The rubber match is set to take place Sunday, but both teams have advanced to the US Open Cup Quarterfinals so the potential to play a higher stakes match later this season is very much on the table.
Not only will this be Sporting’s first trip to Nashville for an MLS match, but it will also be their first appearance at GEODIS Park, the newest MLS soccer-specific stadium in the United States. Opening its doors on May 1, GEODIS Park has hosted six matches, including one U.S. Open Cup match. The 30,000-seat stadium is the largest soccer-specific grounds in the US and Canada, proving very formidable to the road teams that have played there. Nashville has yet to lose on their new grass, posting a 3-0-3 record in all competitions. Even before opening its doors, Nashville was tough to beat at home, but again Sporting has not played a match in Nashville in roughly 24 years.
Nashville solid at home
Nashville is currently unbeaten in 25 straight home matches across all competitions, last losing on Nov. 4, 2020, to FC Dallas. In that span, they have outscored opponents 51-25. A tough nut to crack at home, Nashville have only suffered two home defeats since their inaugural, 2020 season. However, they are not perfect at home.
With a record of 16-2-17, they have drawn more matches than they have won in front of their home fans. Since the start of 2021, their 23 draws are more than any other team in MLS. Sporting has claimed two draws in their last three road matches, including a 0-0 draw at NYCFC, stifling one of the best offenses in MLS on their home turf. Nashville is tough to beat at home, but Sporting Director and Manager Peter Vermes and Sporting KC are up for the challenge.
The stars are out
Vermes will have star power at his disposal on Sunday as forward Daniel Salloi returns from international duty with the Hungarian national team. Salloi has one MLS Team of the Week Selection this season and has put four goals in the back of the net. His partner on the other side of the field, Johnny Russell has returned to a similar goal-scoring form as the end of last season. Russell has four goals in his last four matches leading the team with five goals in regular season play. His seven goals in all competitions also pace the club. The youthful midfield has been stuffing the stat sheet as well. Both Felipe Hernandez and Cam Duke lead the club with three assists to their respective names.
In the opponent’s half, Nashville is led by 2021 MLS Best XI midfielder Hany Mukhtar. Their talisman currently tops Nashville’s charts in goals (six), assists (five), shots (55), chances created (23) and minutes (1,272). He is supported by Zimmerman on the backline who is following up his 2021 MLS Defender of the Year performance well. The United States Men’s National Team defender ranks fifth in MLS with 57 possessions won in the defensive third.
A high-octane matchup with star power all over the field. Sunday Sporting looks to pick up a major result, in a tough place to play against a solid Nashville SC squad on FS1 at 5 p.m. CT.