Preview: Western Conference leaders Sporting KC host D.C. United on Saturday

Sporting Kansas City vs. D.C. United
Saturday, March 31, 2018 | 7:30 p.m. CT
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
2018 MLS Regular Season | Game 5 of 34

Broadcast Schedule:
English TV | FOX Sports KC Plus, 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 App | By The Numbers | Five Things to Know | How to Watch
Game Notes | Media Guide | MatchCenter | Videos

A pair of MLS charter members will square off Saturday when Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City (2-1-1, 7 points) host D.C. United (0-2-2, 2 points) at world-class Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT and tickets are available via SeatGeek.com, including a craft beer tasting and ticket package for just $36. The first 10,000 fans through the stadium gates will receive a limited-edition Ike Opara bobblehead courtesy of match sponsor UMKC.

FOX Sports Kansas City Plus and FOX Sports Midwest Plus will televise Saturday’s match live with three hours of coverage beginning at 7 p.m. CT. The game will also stream on FOX Sports GO, while ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish) will air live radio broadcasts. Additional in-game updates will be available through the Sporting KC Uphoria app, where users can redeem a free pack of Dannon Activia yogurt at any Kansas City-area Price Chopper location.

A dramatic 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids last Saturday pushed Sporting Kansas City’s unbeaten run to three matches and vaulted the side to first place in the Western Conference. Manager Peter Vermes’ men conceded twice in the first 10 minutes but rallied in the second half, as midfielder Felipe Gutierrez scored his league-best fourth goal of the season on 57 minutes before substitute Diego Rubio found a 91st-minute equalizer.

No team in MLS has amassed more goals through Week 4 than Sporting KC, who have scored nine times since suffering a 2-0 defeat to New York City FC in their season opener. Gutierrez has sparked the club’s recent surge, becoming the second midfielder in club history to net four goals in his first four regular season appearances while also leading the league in shots on target and tackles won.

Fellow Sporting KC newcomer Johnny Russell has added a goal and two assists, complementing center forward Khiry Shelton (one assist) and opposite winger Daniel Salloi, who returns to the squad after missing last weekend’s match while on international duty with the Hungary U-21s. Salloi is tied atop the MLS charts with three assists, including two of the game-winning variety.

Four-time MLS Cup champion D.C. United enters Saturday seeking its first victory of the young campaign. Tasked with playing 12 of their first 14 games away from home as the new Audi Field is completed in Washington D.C., the Black and Red are coming off a 3-1 road loss to Columbus Crew SC in which Yamil Asad bagged the visitors’ lone goal. United’s nine goals conceded are tied with Sporting KC for most in MLS, a compelling similarity among two teams who are set to meet for the 55th time in MLS regular season history.

Despite a winless start, head coach Ben Olsen’s side has created problems for opponents over the last month. Asad and veteran forward Darren Mattocks are tied for the team lead with two goals apiece, comprising half of a formidable front four that also includes playmaker Luciano Acosta (one goal, one assist) and U.S. international Paul Arriola (one assist). This quartet will look to test a Sporting KC backline that has conceded multiple goals in each of the first four games this season.

D.C. fell on hard times last year, losing a league-high 20 games after posting three straight winning seasons from 2014-2016. Yet the Black and Red have held a distinct upper hand on Sporting KC in recent years, going 3-0-3 while conceding just one goal over the last six meetings. Sporting KC last beat D.C. with a 1-0 home win on Oct. 18, 2013, but United has emerged victorious in each of their last two visits to Children's Mercy Park.

The sides last met on opening day of 2017, scrapping to a scoreless draw at RFK Stadium. Sporting KC goalkeeper delivered an excellent performance, denying Marcelo Sarvas from the penalty spot and finishing the night with five saves.

While Sporting KC approaches Saturday with a clean bill of health, D.C. must cope with the absence of defender Taylor Kemp and Venezuelan international Junior Moreno. A regular starter over the last three seasons, Kemp will miss his fourth straight game with a groin injury. The 24-year-old Moreno is sidelined with a hamstring ailment, having started in the club’s first three matches.

Series: 
Topics: