Five Things: What to know ahead of Sunday's battle between Sporting and Colorado

Five Things is a weekly series on that highlights the top storylines, players to watch and matchday programming ahead of each game throughout the season.

There simply is no rest for the weary as Sporting Kansas City will play their sixth match in an 18-day spell on Sunday, visiting long-time rivals Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The St. Patrick’s Day fixture will kick off at 8 p.m. CT with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports GO, ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish).

A heavy fixture list and tons of travel have characterized Sporting’s breathless month of March. Sunday marks the final test of the early-season slog, and it comes against a team that features multiple players who used to ply their trade in a Sporting uniform.

With an intriguing Western Conference clash just around the corner, here are the five things you need to know about Sunday.

1. Stay Hot

Having benefited from an ensemble cast of standouts in the Concacaf Champions League, Sporting will aim to resume their winning ways in the Rocky Mountains. This group includes red-hot striker Krisztian Nemeth—who has five goals in as many competitive appearances this season—as well as winger Gerso Fernandes, midfielder Ilie Sanchez, captain Matt Besler and goalkeeper Tim Melia. Gerso has recorded two goals and two assists in the Champions League, Ilie Sanchez is second on the team with three goals, Besler is the only player who has logged every minute this year in all competitions, and Melia has posted four clean sheets in five outings.

2. Tight Schedule

Faced with their sixth match in 18 days, Sporting continues to navigate a jam-packed fixture list on the cusp of FIFA’s international break. Manager Peter Vermes is likely to flex the squad’s depth this weekend, but his lineup selections could be complicated by recent injuries to Spanish center back Andreu Fontas and Hungarian forward Daniel Salloi. Fontas has missed three straight games with a hip ailment and remains questionable for Sunday, while Salloi was forced to exit in the 21st minute of Thursday’s victory after rolling his ankle.

3. Familiar Faces

The new-look Rapids feature a slew of fresh faces and improved talent under second-year head coach Anthony Hudson. Among the incoming crop are three players who formerly starred for Sporting: midfield playmaker Benny Feilhaber, dynamic forward Kei Kamara and industrious striker Diego Rubio. The trio have started in each of Colorado’s first two league fixtures, a thrilling 3-3 home draw against Portland on March 2 and a 2-0 loss at Seattle Sounders FC last Saturday.

4. Rocky Roads

Despite Colorado’s struggles in recent years, Sporting has failed to win in five straight trips to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park since 2015. That stretch includes three 1-0 defeats and a 2-2 draw when the sides last met at the venue in March 2018.

On the bright side, roughly 500 Sporting fans are expected to make the trip out west to provide fervent away support. Couple that with the fact that Sporting is still well-accustomed to high altitude from their preparations for Toluca in the Champions League, and the makings of a road result are certainly there.

5. Party at the Pub

Supporters across the Kansas City region are invited to watch parties at any of the club's newly announced pub partners. Among them is No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District, serving as the flagship hub for Sporting in the heart of downtown. From 7:30 p.m. CT until the final whistle, No Other Pub will offer $4 Bud Light drafts, $5 Coronas and $6 select vodka cocktails as well as an all-you-can-eat buffet with bottomless domestic drafts.

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