Audi Playoff Graphic 2

After finishing near the top of the Western Conference regular season table, Sporting Kansas City will look to punctuate a thrilling 2021 campaign by winning silverware on Major League Soccer's greatest stage. The Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs will see Sporting take the field with aspirations of hoisting the club's third MLS Cup title.

The first step for third-seeded Sporting is a Round One showdown with the No. 6 seed Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday afternoon at Children's Mercy Park. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. CT with live coverage on Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, UniMas and TUDN. Tickets for the highly anticipated encounter are available at SeatGeek.com.

In the buildup to Saturday, SportingKC.com will deliver a comprehensive playoff preview presented by Audi, examining the prevalent storylines surrounding Manager Peter Vermes' side and generating excitement for what lies ahead. In the space below, we provide a graphical look at Sporting's 2021 highlights and playoff matchup, courtesy of club partner Twenty3.

We begin with Sporting Manager Peter Vermes, whose 17 combined playoff appearances as a player or a coach stand alone for most in MLS history.

11.12.21 Peter Vermes

On the pitch, Sporting's dynamic wing duo led the way. MLS MVP finalist Daniel Salloi and captain Johnny Russell erupted for a combined 31 goals and and 16 assists as the top-scoring wingers in the league, according to Twenty3.

11.12.21 Russell Salloi wingers

Russell and Salloi were tied for the most prolific duo in MLS with 47 combined goals and assists in 2021, finishing level with Real Salt Lake's Albert Rusnak and Damir Kreilach. Their individual stat lines this year were uncannily similar, as illustrated below.

11.12.21 Russell Salloi comp

Salloi was nothing shor

Salloi was nothing short of a revelation in 2021. His 16 non-penalty goals were tied for the most in MLS and topped the MLS Homegrown Player goal chart (including penalties).

11.12.21 Salloi Homegrown

As for Russell, he was the league's hottest attacking player for the final two months of the season. From Aug. 28 onward, the Scottish forward racked up 12 goals on just 33 shot attempts. This spell included a club-record eight-match scoring streak.

11.12.21 JFR Shot Chart

The arrival of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs raises the possibility of penalty kick shootouts, which occur if teams remain deadlocked after 120 minutes. Sporting are in good hands here, as goalkeeper Tim Melia boasts a perfect 6-0 record in penalty shootouts throughout his career.

On a related note, since Melia became Sporting's starter in 2015, his 11 penalty saves in the regular season are five more than any other player.

11.12.21 Tim Melia

Protecting Melia as the lynchpin of Sporting's backline is center back Andreu Fontas, who has simply been one of the league's best defenders this season. The Spaniard led MLS in goals added and set MLS records during the Opta era (since 2010) in passes, passes completed and touches.

11.12.21 Andreu Fontas

Moving further up the field, veteran Roger Espinoza—at the ripe age of 35—continued his high-motor ways as an absolute buzzsaw in the middle of the park. His 2021 heat map tells you everything you need to know about the ground Espinoza covers in any given match.

11.12.21 Roger Espinoza

Sporting's midfield comes with balance. If Espinoza is the pressurizer, French newcomer Remi Walter has been the razor-sharp distributor. Among all players in the 2021 MLS postseason, his passing accuracy clip of 91.8% ranks second.

11.12.21 Remi Walter

Lastly, we transition to Saturday's match between Sporting and Vancouver at Children's Mercy Park. Vermes' men have a distinct advantage in the head-to-head series, boasting an 11-4-4 record in the regular season and a 6-1-2 record at home.

11.12.21 SKCvVAN meetings

Sporting were one of the best attacking teams in MLS throughout the regular season, finishing second with 58 goals and vastly outperforming their expected goal total of 49.3. Vancouver underperformed their expected goal total but made up for it by conceding over eight fewer goals than expected.

11.12.21 SKCvVAN 2021

We have already mentioned that Russell was the league's standout performer during the latter stages of the regular season. Close behind him was Vancouver forward Brian White, who has amassed nine goals and four assists since Aug. 28. When Sporting fell 2-1 at Vancouver on Oct. 17, Russell found the back of the net for Sporting and White tallied two assists.

11.12.21 Russell vs White