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 teams looking to build momentum ahead of the Concacaf Gold Cup break will lock horns Friday when Sporting Kansas City (3-5-6, 15 points) treks north of the border to face Toronto FC (5-6-3, 18 points) in a 6 p.m. CT kickoff. Fans can catch the interconference clash live on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports Go, ESPN 94.5 FM and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
Neither Sporting nor Toronto have lit the world afire in recent weeks, but three points on Friday would work wonders for the victor. The Reds occupy the seventh and final playoff spot in the East, while Sporting are just four points below the red line. Manager Peter Vermes' side has dominated the head-to-head series over the last decade and will hope that trend continues at the expense of the hosts.
Without further ado, let’s jump into five things you must know about the contest.
1. First Fridays
First things first, Sporting fans. Everyone is invited to attend Sporting’s annual First Friday Party from 5-10 p.m. CT in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District (2020 Baltimore Ave., Kansas City, MO). Guests who RSVP to the free watch party event at SportingKC.com/FirstFriday will be treated to complimentary beverages and receive a Sporting KC pint glass.
The summer celebration will feature yard games, a DJ and No Other Bus, the club’s double-decker bus transformed into the ultimate Sporting entertainment space. Exclusive Sporting KC art pieces will also be available for purchase.
2. Reign on the Reds
As evidenced by a slew of numbers, Sporting has ruled the series with an iron fist. Vermes' men are 11-1-4 in their last 16 meetings with Toronto, going unbeaten in nine straight since 2013 with a 6-0-3 record. Toronto's 14 regular-season losses to Sporting are their second-most against any MLS opponent.
Perhaps more remarkably, Sporting are 4-0-3 in their last seven visits to BMO Field and haven't lost at the venue since April 2009—more than 10 years ago. Toronto last beat Sporting in March 2013, a 1-0 home win at Rogers Centre. Kansas City's five road wins in Toronto (5-3-4 overall) are the second-most in MLS history behind D.C. United's eight.
3. Conquering Canada
We've got some more positive stats to throw your way. Sporting's 29 regular season wins over Canadian opponents (29-11-14) are the most among U.S.-based MLS clubs. Additionally, their 11 regular season wins in Canada (11-7-8) are the second most among American clubs behind D.C. United's 12.
4. Accounting for Absences
Neither team will be at full strength on Friday, partially due to the fact that national teams across the globe will take the field this week. Sporting will be without European quartet Botond Barath, Krisztian Nemeth, Nico Hasler and Johnny Russell, all of whom have traveled abroad for Euro 2020 qualifying. Toronto, meanwhile, have been stripped of numerous Concacaf Gold Cup participants, including Americans Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley and Canadian Jonathan Osorio.
Sporting are also coping with multiple injuries. Captain Matt Besler was sidelined in last weekend's 1-1 draw at Houston alongside Roger Espinoza (knee) and Gerso Fernandes (wrist). Espinoza is still rehabbing, but Besler and Gerso could be on the brink of returning.
5. Hungry for Points
Sporting and Toronto have experienced similar swings in 2019, storming out of the gates before hitting a springtime slump. After making mincemeat out of Toluca in the Champions League and hanging seven goals on Montreal, Sporting have earned just one win in their last 10 league matches. Toronto began the season with three straight wins but have gone 2-6-3 since then, and their current six-game winless draught is the longest active skid in MLS.
All of this merely amplifies the sense of urgency surrounding Friday's clash, as both teams will be eager to secure a positive result before observing a two-week regular season break.
Keith + Associates Dental Fact
Cats have 30 teeth, dogs have 42 teeth, pigs have 44 teeth and armadillos have 104 teeth.