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.
Two MLS charter members will square off Sunday night in the nation’s capital as Sporting Kansas City (2-3-4, 10 points) visits Eastern Conference co-leaders D.C. United (6-3-2, 20 points) at Audi Field. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT with live coverage on FS1, FOX Deportes, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB, ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM and SiriusXM FC.
Sporting enter the weekend with a palpable sense of urgency, eager to end a month-long winless run at the expense of a D.C. United side that shares equally high ambitions in 2019. With plenty of fascinating storylines surrounding the fixture, let’s jump into five things you must know about #DCvSKC.
1. Bringin’ Benny Back
One of Sporting’s most influential players over the last decade has returned for his second stint in Kansas City. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber was acquired in a trade with the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday, having previously starred for Sporting from 2013-2017. In five seasons with the club, the former U.S. international amassed 33 goals and 56 assists across 180 competitive matches.
It remains to be seen how Feilhaber’s arrival affects Sporting on the pitch, but his veteran leadership, vibrant personality and midfield versatility are among the many qualities he brings to the table. The 34-year-old has played well so far this season, recording two goals and two assists in seven starts for Colorado, and his familiarity with Sporting’s 4-3-3 setup could mean he jumps straight into the starting lineup.
2. Stop the Slide
Fans will hope that Feilhaber provides Sporting a spark on the field and in the locker room, as Manager Peter Vermes’ men are currently mired in a seven-game winless run across all competitions since beating Montreal on March 31. This barren stretch includes an 0-3-2 stretch in MLS.
No one should be pressing the panic button, however, as Sporting sit just one point below the playoff line despite recent struggles and a remarkable number of injuries. Eight players were sidelined in last Sunday’s home loss to Atlanta United FC, and Vermes has described the current injury bug as the worst he’s seen since taking the helm in Kansas City in 2009.
3. New Digs
Sunday will mark Sporting’s inaugural visit to the new Audi Field, which opened on July 14, 2018. Much like Sporting did in 2011 with the launch of Children’s Mercy Park, D.C. has managed a 180-degree turn in their new home.
After languishing in the Eastern Conference basement for all of 2017 and the first half of 2018, United made the most of a home-heavy final stretch and climbed to fourth place by season’s end. The club owns a 15-4-2 regular season record in their new digs, although two of those defeats have occurred this season—including a 4-0 humbling against LAFC on April 6 and a 2-0 setback to New York City FC on April 21.
4. Dynamic Duo
D.C. United boast one of the best one-two punches in MLS, making them one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference. English soccer legend Wayne Rooney (six goals, three assists) and diminutive Argentine Luciano Acosta (three goals, two assists) have transformed head coach Ben Olsen’s men into legitimate title contenders since forging their partnership last summer when Rooney sealed his move to MLS.
In 30 regular season appearances since last July, Rooney has 18 goals, 10 assists and an 18-7-5 win-loss record. During that same timeframe, Acosta has 12 goals and 12 assists. If Sporting plan to emerge from D.C. with three points, containing Rooney and Acosta is an absolute must.
5. Party at the Pubs
With Sporting on the road, supporters across the Kansas City region are invited to watch parties at any of the club's official 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 5:30 p.m. CT until the final whistle, No Other Pub will offer $4 Bud Light drafts, $5 Coronas, $6 select vodka cocktails and an all-you-can-eat buffet with bottomless domestic drafts.
Keith + Associates Dental Fact
The lifespan of a taste bud is about 10 days. The five known tastes detected by taste buds are: bitter, sour, salty, sweet, and umami. Umami was identified in 1908 by a Japanese researcher, and the chemical responsible for it is monosodium glutamate.