Preview: Second-place Sporting Kansas City hosts Minnesota United FC on Saturday

Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United FC
Saturday, June 3, 2017 — 4 p.m. CT
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas

Broadcast Schedule:
English TV | ESPN
Spanish TV | ESPN Deportes
English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
Mobile | Sporting KC Uphoria

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Game Notes | Media Guide | MatchCenter | By The Numbers

After playing four of their previous five matches away from home, Sporting Kansas City will return to Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday to host Minnesota United FC at 4 p.m. CT in a nationally televised showdown on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.

The Western Conference clash will also air live on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), while the Sporting KC Uphoria mobile app will provide live updates and offer all users a free box of Chips Ahoy cookies at Kansas City-area Price Chopper locations.

With heavier traffic anticipated in the Village West area due to Rockfest at the Kansas Speedway, ticket holders are encouraged to arrive early to Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday. The first 10,000 fans through the stadium gates will receive free sunglasses courtesy of match sponsor Mark One Electric.

Sporting Kansas City slipped to second place in the Western Conference standings after stumbling to a 1-0 defeat at the Colorado Rapids last Saturday. Manager Peter Vermes’ men took their second straight loss and their third in five games despite outshooting the Rapids 25-6 and enjoying a 73-percent share of possession.

Last weekend’s frustrating setback allowed the Houston Dynamo to vault atop the West — one point ahead of Sporting KC — with a rampant 5-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. Sporting Kansas City will have reason for optimism, however, as they kick off the month of June in their home fortress.

Indeed, Sporting Kansas City hasn’t lost an MLS match at Children’s Mercy Park in more than a year. The club’s 15-game home unbeaten run is an all-time club record and the longest active streak in MLS, consisting of 12 wins, three draws and nine shutouts. Vermes’ side was particularly dominant at home in April and May, outscoring opponents 11-1 en route to four victories.

Currently occupying ninth place in the Western Conference, expansion side Minnesota United FC has shown marked improvement since early April. The Loons endured an atrocious start to 2017, leaking 18 goals through their first four matches while taking just a point during the month of March. Head coach Adrian Heath’s men have gone a respectable 4-4-1 since then, outscoring teams 13-12 during a stretch that included a 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on May 7 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Rookie Abu Danladi and leading scorer Christian Ramirez bagged first-half goals when the sides met for their inaugural regular season meeting four weeks ago. The 26-year-old Ramirez has relished his debut MLS campaign, ranking third on the league charts with eight goals behind only Chicago’s Nemanja Nikolic (11) and Houston’s Erick “Cubo” Torres (10). Ramirez has scored in three of his last four appearances, including the game-winner in Minnesota’s 1-0 home triumph against Orlando City SC last Saturday.

Minnesota’s upswing will be put to the ultimate test on Saturday, as the Loons seek their first-ever MLS away win against a Sporting Kansas City side that hasn’t lost a league game at home since May 27, 2016. The Loons are 0-4-2 on their travels with 19 goals allowed, but have managed to score twice an impressive four away fixtures.

Both teams will have several players unavailable Saturday due to suspension, injury or international duty. Graham Zusi has joined the U.S. Men’s National Team for World Cup qualifying and is set to miss his first match of the season, while Erik Palmer-Brown continues to captain the U.S. U-20s at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic. Roger Espinoza will serve a one-game red card suspension on Saturday before joining the Honduras Men’s National Team next week. Sporting KC defender Kevin Ellis (thigh) and striker Diego Rubio (ACL) are out injured, and forward Dom Dwyer remains day-to-day with knee inflammation.

The Loons, meanwhile, will be without influential holding midfielder Sam Cronin after he was suspended one game by the MLS Disciplinary Committee on Tuesday for a serious foul play in Minnesota’s win over Orlando last weekend. Dynamic midfielder Johan Venegas (two goals, three assists) has joined Costa Rica for World Cup qualifying, while Danladi (groin), Thomas de Villardi (Achilles) and Bernardo Anor (lower leg) will miss through injury.