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.
Children’s Mercy Park will turn back the clocks on Sunday when Sporting Kansas City hosts reigning MLS Cup champion Atlanta United FC on Retro Night. The star-studded showdown will kick off at 8 p.m. CT with live coverage on FS1, FOX Deportes, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB, SiriusXM FC and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
Tickets for the Retro Night clash remain available at SeatGeek.com, including a limited-time $40 Cinco de Mayo Tailgate Package, as Sporting pays homage to the club’s early days with a comprehensive throwback experience for fans in attendance. For the players on the field, however, it’s all business: Sporting and Atlanta have no intentions of remaining below the playoff line, and Sunday gives both sides the opportunity to regain momentum as the calendar flips from April to May.
With plenty to be excited about this weekend, let’s dive into five things you absolutely must know about the matchup.
1. Early Bird Gets the… Poster
It was a photo so great, they shot it again. Twenty years after the Kansas City Wizards took their team picture at The Kansas City Zoo, the 2019 Sporting Kansas City squad has replicated the photo to a tee.
That brings us to Sunday, where the first 10,000 fans through the Children's Mercy Park gates will receive a free Retro Night poster courtesy of The Kansas City Zoo. The 1999 Wizards are featured on one side, with the 2019 Sporting team on the other.
2. Cinco de Mayo Tailgate
From can’t-miss collector’s item to a can’t miss ticket package, let’s talk about the limited-time Cinco de Mayo Tailgate Package presented by Corona. Supporters can click here to purchase the $40 package, which includes the following:
- One match ticket in the South Stand (general admission) or East Stand (reserved)
- An all-you-can-eat Mexican food buffet on the Toyota Plaza (prematch)
- Two alcoholic beverages or Coca-Cola products and water
Now that’s how you take the Retro Night experience to the next level.
3. The Retro Top
Whether you’re headed to Sunday’s match or watching from somewhere else, now is the time to snap up the new retro jersey. Fans can visit MLSstore.com to purchase the club’s fresh retro top, which debuted last month with photographs of MLS All-Star defender Graham Zusi taken at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Rest assured, supporters will also have the chance to purchase the retro top at SportingStyle locations inside Children's Mercy Park on Sunday.
4. Taking Stock
This is exactly what Manager Peter Vermes will have to do when picking the starting lineup. In what has become a well-documented situation, Sporting has several players unavailable due to injury. This week Gerso Fernandes was ruled out with a broken wrist, joining a list that last week included Matt Besler (hamstring), Roger Espinoza (knee), Erik Hurtado (knee), Jaylin Lindsey (knee), Jimmy Medranda (knee) and Rodney Wallace (hip).
The recent injury bug hasn’t done much to hinder Sporting’s ability to score. The club ranks second in MLS with 19 goals and put four past New England last Saturday. The more troubling trend has been goals conceded, as Sporting has allowed four in two straight regular season matches for the first time since 2002.
5. MLS Cup Hangover?
Atlanta United FC were the toast of MLS last year, improving on a solid 2017 debut with a rampant 2018 campaign that culminated with an MLS Cup victory over the Portland Timbers. The Five Stripes won often, won big and looked good doing it. Josef Martinez set a league record with 30 regular season goals. Now-departed playmaker Miguel Almiron dazzled in midfield. Mercedes-Benz Stadium regularly drew crowds that surpassed 50,000.
But what’s done is done, and Atlanta’s bid to repeat is off to a rocky start. Head coach Tata Martino has been replaced by Frank de Boer, and an offense that ranked first in MLS last season has just six goals through seven matches in 2019. Atlanta currently occupy 10th place in the East, and while midfielder Ezequiel Barco has impressed in the early stages, the likes of Martinez and marquee offseason signing Pity Martinez have yet to hit full stride. Expect Atlanta to be just as hungry as Sporting on Sunday, which should make for quite the dogfight.
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