Sporting KC Show presented by Michelob Ultra: Roger Espinoza praises midfield youngsters, looks ahead to games in home markets

Running throughout the season on Sports Radio 810 WHB, the Sporting Kansas City Show is available on several podcast hubs including Spotify and iTunes as well as With Nate Bukaty, Carter Augustine and Aly Trost hosting the weekly program, Sporting fans have a place to go to catch up on club storylines, guest interviews and more.

A new episode of the Sporting Kansas City Show presented by Michelob Ultra debuted Tuesday night on Sports Radio 810 WHB as hosts Nate Bukaty, Carter Augustine and Aly Trost recapped the MLS is Back Tournament and previewed the resumption of the 2020 MLS regular season, which will see Sporting play six times between Aug. 21 and Sept. 13 and an additional 12 fixtures through Nov. 8 to round out the 23-game campaign.

After breaking down the schedule of Sporting's next six fixtures—a stretch that includes two meetings apiece with Minnesota United FC and the Houston Dynamo as well as matchups with the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas—the trio welcomed The Athletic's Sam Stejskal to the show for his takeaways of the MLS is Back Tournament, Major League Soccer's return to home markets and the challenges of conducting a season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next up was longtime midfielder Roger Espinoza, who has helped Sporting reach the summit of the Western Conference through five matches with a 4-1-0 record. The 33-year-old veteran reflected on his experience inside the Walt Disney World bubble before remarking on the progression of fellow midfielders and Sporting KC Academy products Gianluca Busio, Cameron Duke and Felipe Hernandez, all of whom made positive impressions at the historic competition in Orlando, Florida. Busio buried the match-winning penalty in the Round of 16 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Duke earned his club debut in the quarterfinal loss to the Philadelphia Union, and Felipe Hernandez delivered an eye-catching cameo in a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake.

"It's great to how they have performed," Espinoza said. "At the preseason in Arizona, they didn't know what to expect and they were six months younger. The quarantine allowed them to improve after they saw during the first two games of the season where they had to be at. The way Busio took that PK showed some real maturity. I've been in that situation before in the 2012 Open Cup Final and missed.

"Cameron Duke was injured a lot last year so it was hard to see where he was at, but you can clearly see that he's a great player. With Felipe, I've been watching him for the longest time here. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was younger. He's a very humble guy, too, so it's great to see him doing well.

"That's the present and future of this club. Hopefully they can deliver on the high expectations at this club."

Espinoza went on to share his thought's about Sporting's upcoming schedule, which will feature games against regional rivals exclusively as MLS action approaches with phase one of the continued regular season.

"Minnesota over the past few years has become a great team," Espinoza said. "They're new to this league and not everyone starts like Atlanta United did, but they're definitely a tough team we'll have to face again. I'm sure they want to play us and we want to play them. Colorado, Houston and Dallas are not easy teams to play, either. We're just happy to be playing again and at the end of the day, I just want to finish first."

Sporting will return to the pitch on Aug. 21, visiting second-place Minnesota at Allianz Field. The contest will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT and air live on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus.