Match Preview

Match Preview: Sporting KC hosts MLS champions LAFC on Saturday


Sporting Kansas City vs. LAFC
2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 19
Saturday, June 17 | 7:30 p.m. CT (7:39 kickoff)
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kan.

Broadcast Schedule:
Apple TV | MLS Season Pass
English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM

Sporting Kansas City will host reigning MLS Cup champions LAFC at 7:30 p.m. CT on Saturday at Children's Mercy Park riding a four-match home winning streak that has propelled Sporting into playoff position.

Tickets for the Western Conference clash can be purchased online at SeatGeek, including standing room only tickets as well as the Sporting U Pass for college students. Fans can also pre-order team apparel for match day pick-up at - with a special offer of $50 off orders of $200 or more - and all hot dogs will be $2 off at Children's Mercy Park concessions.

Saturday's showdown will be broadcast live on Apple TV in English and Spanish for MLS Season Pass subscribers with a  one-month free trial available for fans. In addition, local radio coverage will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM with streams in the Sporting KC app and all of the action will be shown by pub partners in the Sporting Pub Network.

After going winless with an 0-7-3 record in the team's first 10 games, Sporting Kansas City leads Major League Soccer since the start of May with 17 goals scored and over that span has the most wins (5) and most points (17) of any team in the Western Conference. SKC's excellent run of form continued with a 4-1 victory over Austin FC last Saturday and, for the first time in 2023, Sporting is now above the playoff line in a tie for eighth place.

Designated Player Alan Pulido tallied two goals and the game-winning assist in the home win to earn MLS Player of the Matchday honors. Pulido has now scored in back-to-back matches and, among players with at least 50 appearances for Sporting in all competitions, ranks second in club history with 0.62 goal contributions per game and third with 0.76 goal contributions per 90 minutes.

Pulido is tied with Daniel Salloi for the team lead with four MLS goals this season and five goals in all competitions on the year. Salloi is one of three Western Conference players - along with LAFC captain Carlos Vela - with seven goals and seven assists in the regular season since the start of last August.

Vela, the three-time MLS All-Star and MLS Best XI selection who set the all-time single-season scoring record with 34 goals in 2019 as the league MVP, has four goals and five assists in 2023. Since arriving in Major League Soccer in 2018, Vela leads the league in regular season goals (73) and total goal contributions (125) when adding his 52 assists.

Defensively, LAFC has conceded the fewest goals in the Western Conference with MLS Cup MVP John McCarthy anchoring the team in net and former MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long bolstering the backline after joining the club in the offeseason.

Led by Steve Cherundolo, LAFC became the only team in MLS history to win the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup double with a first-year head coach in 2022. Ilie Sanchez, who made 171 appearances for Sporting across all competitions from 2017-2021, leads LAFC in minutes played in the past two seasons and converted the winning penalty in the 2022 MLS Cup shootout.

Saturday will mark the first time Sporting Kansas City has hosted a reigning MLS Cup champion since 2018 MLS Cup winners Atlanta United played at Children's Mercy Park on May 5, 2019 and it will come a month after Sporting KC played LAFC to a 1-1 draw in Los Angeles. MLS Golden Boot leader Denis Bouanga and Johnny Russell traded first-half goals as SKC became the first team in MLS to get a road result at LAFC this year.

LAFC enter Saturday's match winless in six straight across all competitions (0-5-1) and scoreless in the team's last four games. After suffering elimination in the U.S. Open Cup last month at home to cross-town rivals LA Galaxy, LAFC fell in the Concacaf Champions League Final earlier this month and since have been held scoreless in three straight regular season games for the first time in club history.

Most recently, LAFC fell 4-0 in Houston last Saturday before dropping the rematch in Los Angeles by a 1-0 scoreline on Wednesday. Amidst a stretch of eight games in 25 days from May 31 to June 24, LAFC will travel to Kansas City on short rest and without five players including Bouanga and Jose Cifuentes due to international duty as well as forward Kwadwo Opoku, who will serve a one-match suspension on Saturday.

Sporting KC also remains shorthanded with five players sidelined due to injuries and a sixth, Marinos Tzionis, on international duty. Tim Melia (quad), Kortne Ford (Achilles), Logan Ndenbe (hamstring), Graham Zusi (hamstring) and Willy Agada (tibia) have been ruled out for Saturday, with another four players questionable with hamstring ailments: Andreu Fontas, Kayden Pierre, Dany Rosero and Johnny Russell.