Five Things: What to know ahead of Sunday's showdown at FC Cincinnati

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.

MLS charter member meets MLS expansion side on Sunday as Sporting Kansas City travels to face FC Cincinnati in a distinctly Midwestern matchup at Nippert Stadium. The inaugural battle between the teams comes on the heels of a rollercoaster week for Sporting, who hammered the Montreal Impact last Saturday before suffering a Champions League setback at CF Monterrey on Thursday.

Sunday’s cross-conference clash will kick off at 2 p.m. CT before a nationally televised audience on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. The match will also air live locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish) with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately following on 810 WHB. Additional in-game updates and exclusive offers will be available on the new Sporting KC app, downloadable for free on the App Store and Google Play.

With Manager Peter Vermes’ men riding a three-game regular season unbeaten run, here are five things to know surrounding the high-profile fixture.

1. Two Extremes

Sporting approaches Sunday on the heels of two polar opposite results in separate competitions. A historic 7-1 shellacking of the Montreal Impact last Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park was followed by a humbling 5-0 defeat CF Monterrey in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals.

With little rest between matches, Manager Peter Vermes has some personnel decisions to make as he takes both form and recovery into account. The 11th-year head coach fielded the same lineup against Montreal and Monterrey. But with two home matches lurking next week—the second leg versus Rayados is followed by a primetime tilt with the New York Red Bulls—the squad could have a slightly different look to it this weekend.

2. Picking on the New Kids

Since the dawn of the MLS expansion era in 2005, Sporting are 9-3-3 in their inaugural meetings against expansion clubs. This run includes recent road wins against New York City FC in 2015 and LAFC in 2018.

That record is sure to change on Sunday, and there is little to suggest the task will be easy. Since suffering a 4-1 road loss at Seattle Sounders FC in their MLS debut, FC Cincinnati have rebounded to take seven points from their last four games. That stretch includes an impressive 3-0 home win over the Portland Timbers on March 17 and a 2-0 win at New England Revolution a week later.

3. Know the Foe

Cincinnati head coach Alan Koch—whose coaching career began at nearby Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, from 2006-2008—has assembled a formidable first-year roster in MLS, having guided Cincy to the second-division USL Championship’s best regular season record last year. Seven different players have accounted for the club’s seven goals in 2019, with the likes of pacy forward Kekuta Manneh, dynamic winger Roland Lamah, playmaking midfielder Kenny Saief and hulking center back Kendall Waston all scoring.

Waston was sidelined with a calf injury for last Saturday’s 2-0 home loss—a rain-drenched affair in which the hosts managed just five shot attempts—but the Costa Rican is likely to against Sporting. Cincinnati striker Fanendo Adi, meanwhile, will probably miss out after violating the league’s substance abuse policy earlier this week.

4. National Spotlight

Sunday marks the second of three times that Sporting will play on ESPN this season. Vermes’ side opened 2019 with an ESPN-televised 2-1 loss at LAFC and will host Minnesota United FC on the heralded network as part of Heineken MLS Rivalry Week on Aug. 22.

Veteran play-by-play commentator Jon Champion—who boasts a wealth of experience calling some of the world’s biggest matches in his native England—will join analyst and former U.S. international Taylor Twellman on the call.

5. Sunday Funday

Supporters across the Kansas City region are invited to watch parties for the match at any of the club's official pub partners. Among them is No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District, which will serve a variety of food and drink specials—including an all-you-can-eat buffet with bottomless sodas and domestic draft beers—from 1:30 p.m. CT until the full-time whistle.

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