Five Things, presented by Keith + Associates Dentistry, is a weekly series on SportingKC.com that highlights the top storylines, players to watch and matchday programming ahead of each game throughout the season.
A pair of MLS originals who finished atop their respective conferences in 2018 will lock horns Sunday as Sporting Kansas City hosts the New York Red Bulls at Children's Mercy Park. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT with national coverage on FS1 and FOX Deportes plus radio calls on Sports Radio 810 WHB, SiriusXM FC and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
Tickets for Sunday's showdown remain available at SeatGeek.com, giving fans the opportunity to catch two perennial playoff contenders in action while enjoying several perks tied to the Sporting Sustainability theme night. Let's get down to brass tacks and rattle off five things you must know heading into the cross-conference clash.
1. Sporting Sustainability
The Sporting Sustainability match is jam-packed with fan-friendly initiatives, making Sunday a can't-miss experience for supporters of all ages. The full rundown on Sporting Sustainability can be found here, but we'll offer a CliffsNotes version below.
- Sustainability T-Shirt and Royals scarf ticket packages
- Recycle Your Game: donate gear and receive a SportingStyle gift card
- Get your hands on Sporting's new Parley jersey
- $2 off beer growlers
- Special Olympics Unified Exchange Game after the match
- Biodegradable cup giveaway and more
2. All Eyes on MLS
Sporting's run in the Concacaf Champions League was wildly fun while it lasted, but dreams of a continental title were dashed Thursday night in a semifinal defeat to CF Monterrey. Having navigated a crowded fixture list through the first month and a half of 2019, Sporting can now direct their full attention on the MLS regular season. That's one game per week, by and large, with the aim of a Supporters' Shield title and a ninth consecutive playoff appearance.
3. Perennial Contenders
Speaking of that playoff streak, Sunday features two teams who have made a habit of reaching the postseason. New York's nine-year playoff run is the second-longest active streak in MLS, while Sporting's eight-year run ranks third.
New York and Sporting are both coming off historic 2018 regular season campaigns. The Red Bulls set an MLS record for most wins (22) and points (71) in a 34-game regular season, while Sporting set a slew of offensive records en route to a first-place finish in the West.
Let's also not forget the fact that Sunday serves up a rematch of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, which saw Sporting prevail 2-1.
4. Red Bull Hangover
Led by head coach Chris Armas, the Red Bulls have been consistently solid for so long that winning has become expected. But make no mistake, New York has struggled out of the gates in 2019. The reigning Supporters' Shield winners have lost three straight league games for the first time in two years and have lost five of six in all competitions, including a quarterfinal defeat to Santos Laguna in the Concacaf Champions League.
5. Coaches Collide
Armas shares a colorful history with two members of Sporting's technical staff. Manager Peter Vermes and assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin squared off against Armas in the 2000 MLS Cup when the Kansas City Wizards defeated Armas and the Chicago Fire 1-0. Zavagnin and Armas were also teammates on the U.S. Men's National Team from 2000-2005.
Keith + Associates Dental Fact
More people use blue toothbrushes (à la Sporting Kansas City) than red ones (à la New York Red Bulls).