Five Things: What to know ahead of Saturday's match between Sporting and Houston

Five Things, presented by Keith + Associates Dentistry, is a weekly series on that highlights the top storylines, players to watch and matchday programming ahead of each game throughout the season.

With the start of June comes the end of a wild week for Sporting Kansas City. Manager Peter Vermes’ men will play their third match in seven days on Saturday, visiting rivals Houston Dynamo in a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff at BBVA Compass Stadium. Fans can catch the Western conference clash live on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports Go, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.

Sporting has experienced a spectrum of emotions since last weekend, prevailing in a 3-2 thriller against Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday before stumbling to a 2-0 loss versus LA Galaxy on Wednesday. Vermes’ side now has the chance to end this breathless stretch of fixtures on a high, facing an all too familiar foe in south Texas. Let’s jump into five narratives surrounding Saturday’s contest.

1. Long and Winding Road

With a three-game homestand in the rearview mirror, Sporting stares down the gauntlet of four straight MLS away matches during the month of June. Throw in a U.S. Open Cup trip to Minnesota United FC on June 11, and Sporting could play each of their next five games away from home. For a side grappling with a host of injury concerns, excess travel will only complicate matters.

Earning a result at BBVA Compass Stadium, where Sporting prevailed 1-0 last August, could go a long way in setting the tone for a pivotal and challenging five weeks ahead.

2. Who Starts?

Vermes has alluded to the fact numerous times recently: a crowded fixture list requires squad rotation, and proper squad rotation requires a healthy roster. Sporting simply doesn’t have that at the moment, but they appear to be getting closer. Center back Andreu Fontas and forward Daniel Salloi made their returns from injury on Wednesday, just as captain Matt Besler did three days earlier.

Against the Galaxy, Vermes actually had the luxury of picking a full matchday squad of 18 players for the first time since April 27. With Sporting playing their third game in a week, expect at least a few lineup changes on Saturday.

3. Dynamic Dynamo

There’s a lot to like about the 2019 iteration of the Houston Dynamo. After winning the Open Cup but missing the playoffs in 2018, head coach Wilmer Cabrera has his side looking like a legitimate postseason contender. The Dynamo are 7-3-2 on the season, occupying fourth place in the West, and have an unbeaten 6-0-2 record at home.

Striker Mauro Manotas (six goals, four assists) and winger Alberth Elis (four goals, six assists) have each accounted for exactly half of Houston’s 20 goals this year. Playmaker Memo Rodriguez, meanwhile, is piecing together his best season as a pro with five goals and two assists. If Sporting want to emerge unscathed on Saturday, containing this triumvirate is a good place to start.

4. Familiar Foes

Few MLS teams share a more intriguing head-to-head history this decade than Sporting and Houston. Since 2011, the clubs have met 30 times in all competitions—it's a dead-even split with 10 wins and 10 draws apiece—and squared off in a slew of high-stakes battles. That includes four editions of the MLS Cup Playoffs (2011-2013, 2017) and each of the last four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups dating back to 2015.

5. Party at the Pubs

With Sporting set to embark on a long road swing, supporters across the Kansas City region are invited to Saturday 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 7 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

As a direct result of water fluoridation and over-the-counter fluoride products, half of children entering first grade today have never had a single cavity. Compare that statistic with 36% in 1980 and 28% in the early 1970s.