Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Saturday, Aug. 20 — 9 p.m. CT
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
English TV | 38 The Spot, SKCTV
English Radio | ESPN 99.3 FM
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
Sporting Kansas City's busy month of August continues Saturday when the club returns to MLS regular season play against Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Children's Mercy Park. The match will kick off at 9 p.m. CT as 38 The Spot and SKCTV provide three hours of live television coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. CT. Listeners can also follow the action on ESPN 99.3 FM and La Grande 1340 AM, and The Final Whistle: Sporting KC Postgame Show will air immediately after full time on 99.3 FM.
Ticket holders are encouraged to be in their seats by 8:45 p.m. CT for an pregame spectacle on-field featuring Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne and a laser and fireworks display. At halftime, Sporting Kansas City assistant coach and former midfielder Kerry Zavagnin will be inducted into the club's Sporting Legends hall of honor. A limited number of tickets for the momentous matchup, including standing-room only tickets, can be secured via Ticketmaster.com or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL.
The third regular season meeting between fifth-place Sporting Kansas City (10-11-5, 35 points) and eighth-place Vancouver (8-11-6, 30 points) carries significant playoff implications, as neither team sits comfortably above the red line. Manager Peter Vermes' men are four points clear in the postseason race heading into the weekend, but clubs immediately below them -- namely the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes -- have games in hand. Vancouver enters the contest with even greater desperation, having lost three straight games to drop outside the playoff picture.
Saturday's opponents lack no familiarity, having met twice already in 2016 with a pair of Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League group stage matches still on the horizon. Dom Dwyer stole the show when the teams first battled on March 12, bagging a first-half brace to give Sporting Kansas City a 2-1 victory at Children's Mercy Park. The return fixture on April 27 at BC Place saw Diego Rubio and Christian Bolanos open their MLS scoring accounts in a 1-1 stalemate. History in the series favors Sporting Kansas City, who own a 5-1-3 record against their Canadian counterparts and a 3-0-1 mark at home.
Amidst a stretch of five games in 15 days, Vermes made 10 lineup changes for Tuesday's 2-2 draw at Central FC in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, an entertaining affair that included goals from defenders Kevin Ellis and Seth Sinovic. Regular starters including Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi were rested for the trip to Trinidad and Tobago and are likely to appear Saturday for the club's lone home game in August. Dwyer is coming off his fourth multi-goal game of 2016 in last weekend's 2-2 tie at FC Dallas, a well-earned result that snapped a three-game road losing skid.
Vermes' lineup decisions are complicated not only by fixture congestion, but by lingering injuries along the backline. Just as Nuno Coelho returned to full fitness, fellow center back Ike Opara suffered a heel injury in Dallas and Sinovic hurt his ankle in Trinidad. Opara is questionable for Saturday's match, while Sinovic is out indefinitely. Goalkeeper Tim Melia (back spasms) is set to miss his fifth straight game with back spasms, and Chance Myers remains sidelined with a pulled hamstring. Veteran Matt Besler has been upgraded to questionable as he recovers from an MCL strain.
Vancouver is winless in five straight games, having collected just two points over the last month. Carl Robinson's side has failed to score in a club-record four straight road matches, spanning 366 minutes since June 25. Whitecaps FC took a 2-1 home defeat to San Jose last Friday, conceding twice before Nicolas Mezquida salvaged a consolation goal deep into second-half stoppage time.
Despite their recent struggles, no team has more regular season road wins since the start of 2015 than Vancouver's 10. Pedro Morales leads the side with six assists and six goals -- five of which from the penalty spot, including a successful conversion against Sporting KC on March 12. Bolanos has a team-high 31 chances created, while defensive midfielder Matias Laba tops MLS with 62 tackles won. David Ousted, a 2015 Goalkeeper of the Year finalist, has a league-best 90 saves for a defense that has faced 15.2 shots per game, third most in MLS.
Whitecaps FC will be without two regular starters on Saturday. Defender Jordan Harvey is sidelined with a knee sprain, while dynamic winger Kekuta Manneh continues rehabilitation from the foot surgery he had a month ago. Manneh is one of the league's fastest players and scored twice at Children's Mercy Park last August when Sporting KC reversed a two-goal deficit in the final 10 minutes of regulation to claim an epic 4-3 victory.