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.
Sporting Kansas City (5-7-7, 22 points) will visit America’s neighbor to the north when they face Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4-8-8, 20 points) at BC Place in Vancouver, Canada at 9 p.m. CT on Saturday. Live match coverage will be available on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM. The game will also be joined live in progress on FOX Sports Kansas City upon the conclusion of Kansas City Royals baseball.
Sporting is looking for its second consecutive victory after handling Chicago Fire at home last Saturday. In the meantime, Vancouver returns home for the first time since June 26, two points behind Sporting and looking to jump over them in the standings.
Here are five things you need to know for Saturday’s Western Conference duel.
1. The Return of Russell
Johnny Russell dawned the Sporting kit for the first time in over a month on Saturday. Russell came off the bench in the 73rd minute to a thunderous applause and standing ovation from the Children’s Mercy Park crowd. The Scotsman was battling a leg injury throughout the month of June and did not make an appearance on Sporting’s long road trip. Russell figures to be back in the lineup and pick back right where he left off. With seven goals so far, he is tied for the team lead with Krisztian Nemeth and Felipe Gutierrez.
2. The Legend of Tim Melia
Goalkeeper Tim Melia is on the edge of Sporting Kansas City glory. Last Saturday’s win tied him with Jimmy Nielsen as the winningest goalkeeper in the club’s regular season history. Melia, who joined the squad in 2015, has a 57-41-34 record in the regular season. Nielson who served as the club’s goalkeeper from 2010-2013, collected a 57-38-32 regular season record before retiring as an MLS Cup Champion. Melia is now one win away from sitting alone in the Sporting record books.
3. On the Road Again
After a month away from home, Sporting got to enjoy two games back at Children’s Mercy Park last week. Those two games have come and gone as the team packs its bags, finds its passports and heads to the Great White North. In their previous road trip, Sporting earned a respectable five points in four MLS matches.
Historically, Sporting KC has fared very well in Canada. Since joining the league in 2011, the Whitecaps have hosted Sporting seven times in regular season play. Sporting has gone 3-2-2 during that stretch. Sporting’s 11 regular season wins in Canada are second only to DC United’s 12.
4. We Meet Again
Saturday’s match will be the second meeting of these two clubs in 2019. The first one certainly did not disappoint in terms of entertainment and drama when the two sides clashed at Children’s Mercy Park on May 18. Benny Feilhaber made his Sporting KC return in front of a packed home crowd. Sporting took a first half lead in the 37th minute when Nemeth put the ball in the net from point blank range. The action escalated when Nemeth received a straight red card in the 51st and the hosts had to play down a man for the remainder of the match. It looked as though Sporting would prevail, but in the fourth minute of added time Derek Cornelius scored a left-footed volley in the 18-yard-box and evened the score at 1-1. Sporting KC would have to settle for a draw.
Since that game, Sporting has leapfrogged Vancouver in the Western Conference standings and both teams find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt. Neither team currently occupies a playoff spot, but they certainly aren’t out of the race. Vancouver has struggled recently as they are winless in their last five MLS matches. Sporting has collected two wins, two losses and a draw in their last five MLS matches.
5. No Other Pub is the Place to Be
Fans are invited to the official watch party for Saturday's contest at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO). From 8:30 p.m. until the full-time whistle, No Other Pub will offer $4 Bud Lights drafts, $5 Coronas and an all-inclusive buffet with bottomless soda and domestic draft beer. Also, don’t miss Trivia Night at No Other Pub Wednesday, July 31. Teams of 2-4 will be tested on their sports knowledge from a variety of sports related categories for the chance to win prizes. Team registration is now open for players of all ages at SportingKC.com/TriviaNight.
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