Preview: Sporting set for St. Patrick's Day showdown at Colorado

Sporting Kansas City at Colorado Rapids
Sunday, March 17, 2019 | 8 p.m. CT
Dick's Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Colorado
2019 MLS Regular Season | Match 3 of 34

Broadcast Schedule:
English TV | FOX Sports Kansas City
English TV | FOX Sports Midwest Plus
English Radio | ESPN 94.5 FM
Spanish Radio | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM
Mobile | Sporting KC App, FOX Sports GO

New Sporting KC App | By The Numbers | Five Things to Know | Soundbites
Broadcast Schedule | Match Notes | Media Guide | MatchCenter

A pair of MLS charter members and longtime rivals will lock horns Sunday when Sporting Kansas City (1-1-0, 3 points) visits the Colorado Rapids (0-1-1, 1 point) for a St. Patrick’s Day showdown at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado.

The Western Conference clash will kick off at 8 p.m. CT, with three hours of live television coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus. The game will also stream live on FOX Sports digital platforms—available for viewers within Sporting’s TV footprint who receive FOX Sports KC or FOX Sports Midwest as part of their pay-TV subscription—while ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish) will carry local radio broadcasts.

Additional in-game updates and exclusive offers will be provided through the new Sporting KC app, and No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.) will host an official watch party featuring an array of food and drink specials from 7:30 p.m. CT until the final whistle.

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’ side recorded their first league win in a 2-0 home shutout of the Philadelphia Union last Sunday before ousting Panamanian club Independiente 3-0 on Thursday at Children’s Mercy Park to reach the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals for the first time.

Sporting will aim to resume their winning ways in the Rocky Mountains, having benefited from an ensemble cast of recent standouts. 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.

Sunday’s task won’t be easy for Sporting, as the new-look Rapids feature a slew of fresh faces and improved talent under second-year head coach Anthony Hudson. Encumbered by two years of futility in the West, Colorado has added 11 new players since December. Among that crop are three players who formerly starred for Sporting in 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.

Captained by 40-year-old American soccer icon Tim Howard, the Rapids have finished last in MLS in goal scoring for two straight seasons. The arrivals of Feilhaber, Kamara and Rubio signify a bid to right those wrongs in 2019, which will be Howard’s final professional season as a goalkeeper.

Vermes is likely to flex his 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.

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. The teams met again two months later at Children’s Mercy Park, a game in which Salloi bagged the lone goal in a 1-0 result for the hosts.

Sporting will meet Colorado for the 77th time in all competitions on Sunday, making the Rapids the most frequent opponent in Kansas City history. Sporting leads the series 31-28-17, including a 25-23-14 mark in the regular season.

Following the match, Vermes’ men will finally have the opportunity to recuperate with the arrival of the international break. MLS regular season action will resume on March 30 with a home fixture against the Montreal Impact before Sporting meets Mexican giants Monterrey in the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals, slated for April 2-4 and April 9-11.