By The Numbers presented by KDOT: Sporting and Minnesota meet in Audi MLS Cup Playoffs | Dec. 3, 2020

"By The Numbers" is a season-long series presented by the Kansas Department of Transportation that gives a statistical preview of every Sporting match. To visit the series archive, click here.

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A blossoming Midwestern rivalry will reach new levels of importance on Thursday when top-seeded Sporting Kansas City hosts Minnesota United FC in the Western Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. The highly anticipated showdown at Children's Mercy Park will kick off at 8 p.m. CT with live coverage on FS1, FOX Deportes, the FOX Sports app, ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM.

Thursday's encounter features a pair of teams looking to extend their impressive runs of form. Sporting have clicked on all cylinders since the start of October, finishing first in the conference standings before surviving a scare from the San Jose Earthquakes in an epic Round One battle. The Loons, meanwhile, boast the longest active unbeaten streak in MLS and had little trouble dispatching the Colorado Rapids for their first-ever playoff win last weekend.

With a spot in the Western Conference Final on the line, we take a statistical look at Thursday's playoff match in our newest edition of By the Numbers, presented by the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Head-to-Head

  • In all competitions, Sporting are a perfect 6-0-0 against Minnesota at Children's Mercy Park. 
  • In six previous home matches against Minnesota, Sporting has outscored the Loons 15-1 and posted five shutouts.
  • Sporting are 7-4-2 against Minnesota in all competitions since the Loons joined MLS in 2017.
  • The sides first met this season on July 12 in the MLS is Back Tournament group stage. Sporting dominated early and took a 1-0 first-half lead through Khiry Shelton, but Minnesota struck twice in second-half stoppage time, including a 97th-minute winner from Kevin Molino, to snatch a 2-1 win. On Aug. 21, midfielder Gadi Kinda scored early and the teams traded own goals as Sporting prevailed 2-1 for their first MLS win on Minnesota soil.
  • The most recent meeting on Sept. 13 saw Johnny Russell bag the game-winner in the 80th minute off a Graham Zusi assist.
  • Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia has a 6-2-1 regular season record against Minnesota, posting four shutouts and a 0.67 goals against average.
  • Tuesday will mark the first meeting between the clubs in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

Minnesota United FC

  • MLS regular season record: 9-5-7 (34 points)
  • MLS standings: 4th in West (1.62 points per game)
  • MLS away record: 3-4-2 (13 GF, 14 GA)
  • Last five regular season matches: 3-0-2, 11 points (T-W-W-T-W)
  • Round One playoff match: W 3-0 vs. Colorado Rapids on Nov. 22
  • Minnesota are on a nine-game unbeaten run dating back to Sept. 27, the longest active streak in MLS. The Loons have gone 5-0-4 during that stretch, including their 3-0 playoff win over Colorado on Nov. 22.
  • Minnesota's 3-0 victory over Colorado on Nov. 22 was the club's first playoff win and sent the Loons to the conference semifinals for the first time.
  • Minnesota's nine-game unbeaten run has included just two away matches—a scoreless draw at Nashville SC on Oct. 6 and a 1-0 win at FC Cincinnati on Oct. 24
  • Minnesota ranked second in MLS during the regular season in both duels won per game (55.3) and interceptions per game (15.0).
  • Minnesota have outscored opponents 13-6 after the 75th minute in all competitions this season.
  • Minnesota are 10-0-3 when scoring the first goal in all competitions this season.
  • Midfielder Kevin Molino has a team-best 11 goals to go with five assists in 20 appearances across all competitions this year, including a brace in Minnesota's playoff win over Colorado. He leads MLS with four multi-goal games this season, including playoffs.
  • Midfielder Robin Lod has 10 goals and six assists in 24 appearances across all competitions this season.
  • Minnesota have lost just once in the 10 MLS matches that midfielder Emanuel Reynoso has started, including playoffs. Reynoso assisted on all three goals in Minnesota's 3-0 playoff win over Colorado.
  • Midfielder Jan Gregus has started all 50 MLS appearances for Minnesota over the last two seasons (including playoffs), tallying two goals and a team-best 19 assists.
  • Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair has started each of Minnesota's last 14 MLS matches, posting seven shutouts and a 7-2-5 record with a 0.86 goals against average.

Sporting Kansas City

  • MLS regular season record: 12-6-3 (39 points)
  • MLS standings: 1st in West (1.86 points per game)
  • MLS home record: 5-3-1 (18 GF, 12 GA)
  • Last five regular season matches: 3-1-1, 10 points (L-T-W-W-W)
  • Round One playoff match: Tied 3-3 vs. San Jose Earthquakes on Nov. 22 (won 3-0 on penalties)
  • Sporting are 15-4-4 all-time in home playoff matches, including a 5-2-2 record at Children's Mercy Park. The two ties account for penalty shootout wins over Real Salt Lake in the 2013 MLS Cup and San Jose in last Sunday's opening-round match.
  • After collecting 10 wins and 38 points during a 34-game regular season in 2019, Sporting eclipsed those totals with 12 wins and 39 points in 21 matches this year.
  • From the start of October to the end of the regular season, Sporting went 6-1-1 with MLS bests in wins (six), points (19), shutouts (four) and goals against average (0.63).
  • Sporting have scored in 22 of 24 matches this season across all competitions, including all 10 at Children's Mercy Park.
  • Sporting lead MLS with 10 goals from corner kicks this season (including playoffs).
  • During the regular season, Sporting ranked third in MLS in shots per game (14.9) and first in fewest shots faced per game (9.5).
  • Goalkeeper Tim Melia owns a perfect 6-0 record in penalty shootouts throughout his professional career. He also boasts a 0.538 goals conceded percentage on penalties in MLS competition, the lowest in league history among keepers who have faced at least 10 penalty kicks. Only 14 of the 26 penalties he has faced in the regular season have been successful.
  • Forward Johnny Russell is the only Sporting player who has appeared all 24 competitive matches this season. He is one of five MLS players to record 25 goals and 25 assists since the start of 2018 (regular season and playoffs).
  • Forward Khiry Shelton scored a career-high five goals during the regular season. He owns a 24-8-11 record in MLS matches as a Sporting starter (including playoffs).
  • During the regular season, forward Erik Hurtado led MLS with 1.20 goals per 90 minutes (minimum 3 goals scored).
  • During the regular season, forward Alan Pulido (six goals, five assists) and midfielder Gadi Kinda (six goals, four assists) were two of seven MLS newcomers with 10 or more combined goals and assists.
  • Sporting went 10-2-1 in the 13 regular season matches that midfielder Ilie Sanchez started this season.
  • During the regular season, defender Roberto Puncec played the full 90 minutes in all seven of Sporting's shutouts while leading the team in passes (910), successful passes (793), interceptions (25), clearances (59) and blocks (11).
  • During the regular season, Sporting were the only MLS team to have five players with at least five goals (Kinda, Pulido and Russell had six each, while Hurtado and Shelton had five apiece).

Milestones and Miscellany

  • In the Round One win over San Jose, goalkeeper Tim Melia became the first goalkeeper in MLS history to save all three penalties and prevail 3-0 in a shootout.
  • In the Round One win over San Jose, midfielder Roger Espinoza marked his 300th competitive appearance for the club with his first career playoff goal.
  • In the Round One win over San Jose, midfielder Gianluca Busio became the youngest player in MLS history to score a goal and record an assist (18 years, 178 days) in a playoff game.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes' 16 career playoff appearances (7 as player, 9 as head coach) are tied with Kyle Beckerman for the most in MLS history among players and head coaches.

All-time #SKCvMIN meetings (all competitions)

  • Regular season record vs. Minnesota: 6-3-2
  • All competitions record vs. Minnesota: 7-4-2
Date Result H/A Competition
05/07/2017 L 0-2 Away Regular Season
06/03/2017 W 3-0 Home Regular Season
06/14/2017 W 4-0 Home U.S. Open Cup 4th Round
10/07/2017 T 1-1 Away Regular Season
05/20/2018 T 1-1 Away Regular Season
06/03/2018 W 4-1 Home Regular Season
08/25/2018 W 2-0 Home Regular Season
06/12/2019 L 1-4 Away U.S. Open Cup 4th Round
08/22/2019 W 1-0 Home Regular Season
09/25/2019 L 1-2 Away Regular Season
07/12/2020 L 1-2 Neutral Regular Season (MLS is Back)
08/21/2020 W 2-1 Away Regular Season
09/13/2020 W 1-0 Home Regular Season

Team Stats (2020 regular season)

(Per Opta; MLS rank in parenthesis)

Category (per game) Sporting Minnesota
Goals scored 1.81 (5th) 1.71 (8th)
Goals conceded 1.19 (10th) 1.24 (11th)
Shots 14.9 (3rd) 13.9 (6th)
Shots on goal 4.9 (8th) 4.8 (10th)
Shooting accuracy 47.3% (15th) 44.3% (23rd)
Shot conversion rate 12.1% (11th) 12.3% (10th)
Shots faced 9.5 (1st) 14.1 (20th)
Passing accuracy 80.8% (16th) 79.9% (21st)
Possession 49.5% (14th) 47.2% (19th)
Chances created 10.0 (t-8th) 10.0 (t-8th)
Duels won 52.1 (8th) 55.3 (2nd)
Tackles won 10.3 (7th) 10.7 (6th)
Interceptions 11.7 (19th) 15.0 (2nd)
Clearances 15.1 (20th) 18.3 (9th)
Fouls committed 12.3 (14th) 13.2 (10th)
Fouls suffered 10.7 (20th) 12.2 (9th)
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