Preview: Sporting KC puts two-game winning streak on the line Saturday in Colorado

Sporting Kansas City at Colorado Rapids
Saturday, March 24, 2018 | 8 p.m. CT
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Colorado
2018 MLS Regular Season | Game 4 of 34

Broadcast Schedule:
English TV | FOX Sports KC, FOX Sports Midwest Plus
English Radio | ESPN 94.5 FM
Spanish Radio | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM
Mobile | FOX Sports GO, Sporting KC Uphoria

Uphoria AppBy The Numbers | Five Things to Know
Game Notes | Media Guide | MatchCenter | Soundbites

Tied for first place in the Western Conference, Sporting Kansas City (2-1-0, 6 points) puts a two-game winning streak on the line Saturday against the Colorado Rapids (0-1-0, 0 points) at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. The match will kick off at 8 p.m. CT with three hours of live coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish) will carry the game on the radio, while the Sporting KC Uphoria app will provide live updates.

All supporters are invited to attend the official watch party for Saturday’s contest at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.), highlighted by Sporting KC ticket giveaways, $4 Bud Light drafts and an all-inclusive buffet with bottomless domestic draft beers for $30.

Sporting KC travels west this weekend on the heels of an exciting 3-2 home victory over the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday. Ilie opened his MLS scoring account from the penalty spot in the 25th minute before Graham Zusi and Felipe Gutierrez bagged sensational second-half goals to help secure all three points at Children’s Mercy Park. Zusi’s left-footed thunderbolt propelled him to MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week honors, while Gutierrez became the first Sporting KC player ever to record three goals in his first three MLS regular season appearances for the club.

Manager Peter Vermes’ men enter Week 4 on a wave of attacking momentum, having scored seven goals over a two-game span for the first time since August 2015. Sporting KC’s seven goals are tied for most in Major League Soccer, a substantial uptick from 2017 when the team took its first eight games to reach the seven-goal mark. Saturday presents the club with an opportunity to win consecutive road games and three straight MLS matches overall for the first time since March and April of 2016.

On the opposite sideline, first-year head coach Anthony Hudson leads a Colorado side that hasn’t played a competitive match in nearly two weeks. The Rapids suffered a 2-1 season-opening setback at the New England Revolution on March 10 in a game that saw eight Colorado players make their MLS debuts. That list includes all three defenders who started in a three-man backline — Tommy Smith, Danny Wilson and Deklan Wynne — plus midfield quartet Johan Blomberg, Edgar Castillo, Enzo Martinez and Jack Price as well as forward Niki Jackson, a fourth-round selection in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft who came off the bench to score Colorado’s lone goal.

The significant roster shuffle at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park comes after the Rapids lost 19 games in 2017, their most since the inaugural 1996 MLS season. Forward Dominique Badji was a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable campaign, leading the team in goals (nine) and assists (six). Longtime U.S. international goalkeeper Tim Howard, who returns for his 22nd professional season and his third with Colorado, captains a team that bowed out of the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League last month with a 2-0 aggregate defeat to Toronto FC in the Round of 16.

The Rapids may be short on match rhythm with just one game played in March, but they are facing a Sporting KC outfit that has conceded multiple goals in each of the first three games of the season — something that hasn’t happened since 2011. In addition, the visitors will have to account for the absence of homegrown forward Daniel Salloi, who has joined the Hungary U-21 Men’s National Team for UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying. Salloi is tied atop the MLS charts with three assists, including two of the game-winning variety.

History paints an ominous picture for Sporting KC ahead of their trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Vermes’ side has lost four straight road games in the series, including each of the last three by a 1-0 scoreline. Overall, Colorado has won six of the last seven meetings dating back to August 2015, and their six victories over Sporting KC since then are their most against any opponent.

The sides split their two meetings in 2017. Sporting KC cruised to a 3-1 victory last April at Children’s Mercy Park, receiving goals from Seth Sinovic and Gerso Fernandes, before the Rapids exacted revenge a month later with a 1-0 home triumph despite being outshot 24-6 and conceding 73 percent possession.