Sporting Kansas City at Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020 | 9:30 p.m. CT
BC Place | Vancouver, British Columbia
2020 MLS Regular Season | Match 1 of 34
English TV | FOX Sports Kansas City
English TV | FOX Sports Midwest Plus
English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
Streaming | FOX Sports GO
Sporting Kansas City’s 25th season as a founding member of Major League Soccer will begin in earnest Saturday when the club visits Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place.
The long-awaited Week 1 clash will kick off at 9:30 p.m. CT with three hours of live coverage starting at 9 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. Listeners can also catch the action locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), immediately followed by The Final Whistle postgame show on 810 WHB.
To celebrate the season-opening matchup, supporters of all ages are invited to attend Sporting’s First Kick Party on Saturday at Corinth Square in Prairie Village, Kansas. Programming will begin at 1 p.m. CT, highlighted by a variety of family-friendly activities, food and beverage tents from First Watch and BRGR and an evening watch party at Johnny’s Tavern with drink specials and prize giveaways. Other viewing parties will take place at each of the 15 locations within the Sporting Pub Network.
Led by 12th-year manager Peter Vermes—the longest tenured MLS coach and the only coach to spend 12 consecutive MLS seasons with the same team—Sporting won four major championships last decade and made eight straight playoff appearances from 2011-2018. The club fell short of the postseason last year, ending the fourth-longest playoff streak in league history, and will enter the new campaign with aspirations of becoming a title contender once more.
Sporting’s roster features a blend of experienced veterans—center back Matt Besler, midfielder Roger Espinoza, goalkeeper Tim Melia and right back Graham Zusi among them—and enticing fresh faces who have joined the club this offseason. Marquee newcomers include Mexican striker Alan Pulido, Croatian center back Roberto Puncec, Israeli midfielder Gadi Kinda and returnee Khiry Shelton, a forward who helped Sporting to a first-place finish in 2018 before spending last year with SC Paderborn 07 in Germany.
Now in their 10th season as one of Canada’s three MLS clubs, the Whitecaps ended 2019 in the Western Conference basement with 34 points and an 8-16-10 record. The year of transition is behind them, however, and second-year head coach Marc Dos Santos—who coached Sporting Kansas City II during its inaugural season in 2016—has added 10 new players to the Whitecaps roster.
In a bid to bolster their squads, both teams splashed club-record transfer fees on prized strikers from Liga MX in December. Pulido arrives at Sporting as the reigning Liga MX scoring champion, having totaled a dozen goals for Chivas de Guadalajara last fall. Vancouver's Lucas Cavallini, meanwhile, returns to his native country after a prolific three-year spell with Puebla. Cavallini is one of several notable additions for the Whitecaps alongside forward Cristian Dajome, midfielder Leonard Owusu and defender Erik Godoy, all of whom were acquired using Targeted Allocation Money.
Pulido and Cavallini will look to gel with other prominent attackers who led their respective teams in 2019. On the Sporting sideline, Felipe Gutierrez had a team-best 12 goals and Johnny Russell notched nine goals and nine assists. Vancouver was propelled by seasoned veteran Fredy Montero (eight goals) and Peruvian international Yordy Reyna (seven goals).
Recent history paints a positive picture for Sporting, who own a 9-3-4 regular season record against the Whitecaps and have won by a three-goal margin on each of their last two visits to BC Place. The most recent meeting unfolded last July in British Columbia as an own goal, a Gutierrez strike and a late Gerso Fernandes tally lifted Sporting to a 3-0 triumph. Vermes’ side has outscored Vancouver 14-2 across the last four matchups, which also includes a 4-1 road victory in October 2018 that saw Homegrown forward Daniel Salloi bag a brace.
Saturday will mark the first time ever that Sporting has played an MLS match in February and opened a season on Canadian soil. Vermes’ men have fared historically well on their travels north of the border, as Sporting’s 12 regular season wins in Canada (12-7-9 record) are the second-most among American MLS clubs. Moreover, Kansas City's 13 season-opening victories are tied for the most all-time in MLS.