"This Week in Sporting," presented by The Smile Generation, is a weekly series that highlights the biggest storylines and news updates from Sporting Kansas City.
1. Dousing the Fire
Children's Mercy Park debutant Jose Mauri and captain Johnny Russell struck inside the first six minutes as Sporting Kansas City (12-5-7, 43 points) reclaimed second place in the Western Conference with a 2-0 home win over Chicago Fire FC (6-12-5, 23 points).
Mauri opened his MLS scoring account in the fourth minute, capitalizing on a costly error from Chicago goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, and Russell doubled his team's advantage two minutes later to give Sporting its fastest two goals in club regular season history.
The comprehensive result vaults Sporting from third to second in the Western Conference table, two points behind leaders Seattle Sounders FC, while Chicago drops to 12th in the East with losses in each of its last six trips to Children's Mercy Park since 2017. Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia notably reached the 10-win threshold for the seventh consecutive regular season, tied for the longest such streak in MLS history, by posting his sixth shutout of 2021 and the club's first clean sheet on home soil since May 16.
2. Minnesota on Wednesday
Riding newfound momentum, Sporting can jump atop the West with a win on Wednesday as regional rivals Minnesota United FC (8-7-7, 31 points) visit Children's Mercy Park for a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff. Tickets for the pivotal matchup are available at SeatGeek.com with live coverage on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app as well as Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
Manager Peter Vermes' men own a perfect 5-0-0 regular season record against Minnesota, scoring 11 goals and conceding just one, but the Loons earned a statement victory by prevailing 3-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals last December at Children's Mercy Park. Wednesday's fixture is the second of three head-to-head meetings between the clubs, following a scoreless draw on Aug. 21 at Allianz Field and preceding another battle in Minnesota on Oct. 31.
3. Playoff Schedule Drops
Major League Soccer announced last week the match schedule and broadcast details for the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs and 2021 MLS Cup, which include the league’s first Thanksgiving Day match on FOX, as well as four consecutive weekends of postseason action on ABC.
In addition to broadcast coverage, MLS has outlined mechanisms for postseason qualification, including a required minimum number of matches played (30) as well as the competition format for the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. For the 2021 MLS competition guidelines, click here.
Following MLS Decision Day on Sunday, Nov. 7, the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs will kick off on Univision on Nov. 20 and will see the 12 single-elimination playoff matches, played across two weeks, aired on national television leading into 2021 MLS Cup on Dec. 11.
4. Academy Back in Session
Three Sporting Kansas City Academy teams enjoyed perfect starts to the 2021-22 MLS NEXT season on Saturday at sunny Swope Soccer Village, posting shutout victories in Week 1 of the new campaign.
Former Sporting Kansas City great Benny Feilhaber made his U-17 head coaching debut, presiding over a 3-0 win against Chicago Fire FC, before the Sporting KC U-15s claimed a 2-0 triumph versus the same opponent. To round out a successful morning of soccer, the U-14s prevailed 3-0 over Texas-based Total Soccer Club.
5. SKC II Falls Short
Sporting Kansas City II (4-14-7, 19 points) fell to a narrow 1-0 loss at Indy Eleven (8-10-5, 29 points) on Saturday night at Michael A. Carroll Stadium. Goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh made six impressive saves for the visitors, but Indy Eleven broke SKC II's resolve on a 77th-minute goal from Gordon Wild to claim victory.
SKC II is off next weekend and will return to the pitch on Friday, Sept. 24, when they host FC Tulsa at Children's Mercy Park. The Central Division clash will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and stream live on ESPN Plus.