Running throughout the season on Sports Radio 810 WHB, the Sporting Kansas City Show presented by Michelob Ultra is available on several podcast hubs such as Spotify and iTunes as well as SportingKC.com. With Nate Bukaty, Aly Trost and Conall McCourt hosting the weekly program, Sporting fans have a place to go to catch up on club storylines, guest interviews and more.
Captain Johnny Russell was the star of the Sporting Kansas City Show on Tuesday night, joining hosts Nate Bukaty and Conall McCourt to recap the club’s recent success and look ahead to Wednesday’s pivotal matchup with Minnesota United FC at Children’s Mercy Park.
Russell bagged the second goal in Sporting’s comfortable 2-0 home win over Chicago Fire FC on Saturday and now has five goals and five assists for the 2021 campaign. The Scottish winger has been one the of the league’s most prolific attackers since joining Kansas City in 2018, as he is one of three MLS players with 30 goals and 30 assists in the regular season and playoffs during that time. As a cherry on top, Russell’s goal on Saturday came during his 100th regular season appearance in Sporting blue.
“It’s always nice to hit big milestones at clubs, especially games played. I’ll be closing in soon on 500 games for my career, as well. I’m proud to have had that longevity and pushed through, and hopefully I’ll continue to do that,” Russell said. “To be fair, the time that I’ve been in Kansas City has kind of flown. I made my professional debut almost 15 years ago now. I’m happy here and take pride in how long I’ve played and the level I’ve played at.”
Russell’s sixth-minute strike came two minutes after midfielder Jose Mauri became the fourth Sporting player to score on his Children’s Mercy Park regular season debut. The 25-year-old Argentine-Italian landed his first appearance for Sporting on Sept. 3 at LAFC before taking the field at home for thei first time last weekend. The former Serie A string puller has made a palpable impact thus far, and Russell believes Mauri will only get better as the year rolls onward.
“Jose has done really well so far to get up to speed,” Russell said. “He’s not fully fit yet, but once we get him fully fit, you’ll see even more of his quality. We’ve seen it already in the brief time he has been here.”
Sporting enter Wednesday’s home match, slated for 7:30 p.m. CT, just two points behind Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders FC. A victory would vault Manager Peter Vermes’ men to the top of the conference, putting them in position for a third first-place finish since 2018.
Russell, of course, has been an integral part of Sporting’s achievements over the last four seasons and reckons that an MLS Cup title is a very real possibility this time around.
“I just feel like this year we’ve got everything,” the captain said. “In the past we’ve had the quality on the field and the right mentality at times, but I don’t know if we’ve quite put it all together the way we have this year. Although you don’t want to go behind in games, the amount of times we’ve done it and come back to get wins or get points—that just shows the mindset of the team. When you find yourself in those positions, we’ve got the belief that we can go toe to toe with anyone in this league.”
He continued: “We’ve stayed humble and we know what we’re capable of when we’re at our best. It’s not an arrogant thing; it’s confidence in each other and ourselves and in the staff. As a collective, something just seems to have clicked. We’re showing all sides of our game on a frequent basis, which has been the most pleasing thing. At this stage of the season, having shown that we have that mentality is going to be massive for us in the final stretch of games.”
Tickets for Wednesday’s match are available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting and Minnesota lock horns in the second of three head-to-head meetings this season. The first edition of “the nicest rivalry in sports” saw Sporting midfielder Remi Walter receive a controversial first-half red card just minutes after Bakaye Dibassy violently horse-collared Alan Pulido to the turf and escaped with no punishment.
“Last time we had to battle down a man for 70 minutes of the game. To show the effort and fight for each other that we did, that was pleasing," Russell said. "I don’t think Remi’s foul is a red card. If you’re giving a red card for that, you have to give a red card for the foul on Alan before that, which was worse for me. Anyone who has watched the last few games between us knows there’s a bit of fire in it. They’ve got some great players and the games are always exciting. We got a positive result away from home and now we’ll be looking to take the full points here at home.”
Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally sports app will provide three hours of live coverage beginning at 7 p.m. CT, while Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish) will air local radio calls with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately following on 810 WHB. Supporters can access the Sporting KC app for additional in-game updates and exclusive offers on Wednesday, including a digital coupon for a free carton of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream courtesy of Price Chopper.