Five Things: What to know ahead of Saturday's match between Sporting and Houston | March 7, 2020

"Five Things" is a weekly series on SportingKC.com that highlights the top storylines and players to watch ahead of each match throughout the season. To visit the series archive, click here.


For the first time in over five months, Sporting Kansas City (1-0-0, 3 points) will take the field Saturday at world-class Children’s Mercy Park for a long-awaited and highly anticipated home opener against rivals Houston Dynamo (0-0-1, 1 point) at 7:30 p.m. CT.

A limited number of tickets for Saturday’s Western Conference showdown remain available at SeatGeek.com and the first 10,000 fans through the stadium gates will receive a free rally towel courtesy of match sponsor UMB Bank. FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM will also provide live coverage of the clash.

With plenty to be excited about on Saturday, let’s jump straight into five things to know about the newest chapter of an intense MLS rivalry.

1. It’s Been a Minute

By the time Sporting kicks off on Saturday, 160 days will have elapsed between home matches at Children’s Mercy Park. The club’s 2019 home finale came on Sept. 29, 2019, and with an eight-year playoff streak ending last fall, Manager Peter Vermes’ men were in for a longer offseason than usual.

This merely makes the anticipation surrounding Saturday’s fixture even more palpable. For an ardent and passionate fanbase like Sporting’s, this weekend is unequivocally cause for celebration. MLS soccer is back in the Heartland.

2. Home Debuts

Mexican striker Alan Pulido and Israeli midfielder Gadi Kinda announced their MLS arrivals emphatically last weekend, playing lead roles in a 3-1 victory at Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Pulido opened the scoring with a pinpoint header before Kinda unleashed an MLS Goal of the Week nominee with his weaker left foot. With impressive league debuts under their belts, Pulido and Kinda are now set to make their maiden appearances in the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park.

3. Keeping Tabs

Vermes is the longest-tenured head coach in MLS and the league’s only coach to spend a dozen consecutive seasons with the same team. He will coach his 350th regular season match on Saturday—becoming the fifth MLS manager to do so—and he will reach the milestone against a friend and former teammate who enters his first year in charge of Houston.

Tab Ramos, who served as the United States U-20 head coach from 2011-2019, jumped to MLS last fall and earned a 1-1 tie in his Dynamo coaching debut last Saturday against the LA Galaxy. Vermes and Ramos, both 53 years old, followed remarkably similar playing arcs and were teammates on four different teams: the United States Men’s National Team, the New Jersey Eagles, Spanish side Figueres and the New York/New Jersey MetroStars of MLS.

4. Familiar Foes

No team has faced Sporting more frequently since 2011 than the Dynamo. The clubs have squared off on 32 occasions over the last 10 seasons, with Sporting collecting 12 wins, 10 ties and 10 losses in those games. Vermes’ side is 3-0-2 in the last five regular season meetings, posting three shutouts during that stretch, and has won each of the last two at Children’s Mercy Park.

5. Protect This House

If history suggests anything about Saturday’s encounter, it’s that Houston will have a hard time emerging with all three points. After all, Sporting are 14-3-7 all-time in home openers and have lost just one of their previous nine home openers at Children’s Mercy Park.

Keep It Clean

To help Sporting maintain a clean, safe and healthy environment at Children’s Mercy Park, please wash hands thoroughly in restrooms and use hand sanitizer when available. Sanitizing wipes are also readily available for surfaces if needed. Sporting associates are following this approach and everyone's efforts are greatly appreciated.

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