"Five Things" is a season-long series presented by the Children's Mercy Sports Medicine Center that highlights the top storylines and players to watch ahead of each match. To visit the series archive, click here.
Riding a wave of momentum after topping the Houston Dynamo on Saturday in Texas, Sporting Kansas City (7-5-2, 23 points) will return to Children's Mercy Park on Wednesday to face Chicago Fire FC (4-7-4, 16 points) at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the match are available at SeatGeek.com and fans following from home can catch the action on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
Tasked with playing twice per week through the month of October, Sporting will look to keep pace in the ultra-competitive Western Conference against an in-form Chicago side that has taken seven points from its previous three games. We examine five compelling narratives surrounding the fixture in the space below.
1. Back on Track
After navigating a tough September that yielded just one win, Sporting jumped back into the victory column on Saturday thanks to standout performances from striker Alan Pulido and midfielder Gianluca Busio. Pulido struck on both both sides of halftime with Pulido assisting each goal, and the end result was a 2-1 triumph that kept Sporting within four points of Seattle Sounders FC at the top of the West.
Pulido will miss Sporting's next few matches due to international commitments with Mexico, which will prompt Manager Peter Vermes to leverage his squad's depth with games coming thick and fast. On a positive note, midfielder Gadi Kinda will be available for selection again after missing the Houston clash through caution accumulation.
2. Catching Fire
Under the guidance of first-year head coach Raphael Wicky, Chicago endured a poor start to 2020 by winning two of their first 12 regular season matches. That stretch included a last-place finish in Group B of the MLS is Back Tournament in Walt Disney World and, more recently, lopsided defeats to Eastern Conference contenders Columbus Crew SC and Orlando City SC.
The Fire look to be on the uptick, however, as they have posted two wins and a draw in their previous three outings. Slovenian forward and Designated Player Robert Beric has sparked the resurgence with goals in five consecutive appearances, good for the longest scoring streak by an MLS player this season. Midfielder Fabian Herbers has added two goals of his own in recent weeks, while longtime Sporting forward C.J. Sapong opened his 2020 scoring account in a 4-0 throttling of Houston on Sept. 23. Another player to watch for is Spanish playmaker Alvaro Medran, who has a team-best four assists and previously plied his trade for the likes of Real Madrid, Valencia and Rayo Vallecano in his homeland.
3. Supporter Perks
Whether fans are in attendance Wednesday or watching from the comfort of home, they stand to benefit from a few limited-time perks. Those who spend $35 on concessions or merchandise at Children's Mercy Park will receive a free Sporting KC clear bag with their purchase, while users of the Sporting KC mobile app will have the opportunity to redeem a coupon for free Talenti gelato at any Kansas City area Price Chopper location, active Wednesday through Friday.
4. Busy Bees
Sporting Kansas City is in the midst of an unprecedented stretch of nine regular season matches in 30 days. Never before has the club played nine regular season fixtures in the space of a month. The busy period began Saturday and runs through Nov. 1, with Decision Day scheduled to follow on Sunday, Nov. 8. At the conclusion of the abridged 23-game regular season, the top eight teams in the Western Conference and the top 10 finishers in the East will advance to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. From there, a single-elimination bracket will unfold with the higher seed hosting through MLS Cup on Dec. 12.
5. History Lesson
Wednesday’s showdown serves up a rematch of MLS Cup 2000 and the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which stand as two of Sporting’s seven major championships to date. Kansas City edged Chicago by a 1-0 scoreline in MLS Cup 2000, receiving a first-half goal from folk hero Miklos Molnar and 10 saves from MLS MVP Tony Meola. Sporting replicated the scoreline in a dramatic, extra-time triumph at Arrowhead Stadium in the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, riding to victory thanks to Igor Simutenkov's 95th-minute golden goal.
More recently, Sporting has won three straight in the regular season series dating back to 2017. That period includes a 3-2 home triumph in July 2017, a 4-3 thriller in Chicago in March 2018, and a narrow 1-0 triumph in July 2019 at Children's Mercy Park.