Preview: Sporting KC to Host Austin FC on Saturday
The lone MLS matchup of the weekend will see Sporting Kansas City (5-2-1, 16 points) play for first place in the Supporters' Shield standings when expansion side Austin FC (2-4-1, 7 points) visits Saturday for a 2 p.m. CT kickoff at world-class Children's Mercy Park. Tickets for the Western Conference encounter are available at SeatGeek.com as Peter Vermes presides over his 450th competitive match as Sporting's manager.
Supporters can catch Saturday's showdown live on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app, with three hours of live programming starting at 1:30 p.m. CT. Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish) will carry local radio broadcasts, while the Sporting KC app will provide additional in-game updates and exclusive offers -- including a digital coupon for free breakfast bars at Price Chopper locations in the Kansas City area.
When Sporting and Austin lock horns on Saturday, ticket holders will have the opportunity to purchase Sporting Kansas City's new commemorative book. "One Club: The First 25 Years of Major League Soccer in Kansas City" will be available at all SportingStyle locations inside Children's Mercy Park. Additionally, The Victory Project and Charlie Hustle have partnered to create a limited-edition shirt that will be available while supplies last at the stadium's new Charlie Hustle pop-up store on the south side of the Mazuma Plaza. SportingStyle will also offer a buy-one-get-one 50% off deal for all headwear.
Sporting enters the weekend on a blistering run of form, having won four of their last five matches and each of their last three. In Sporting's recent fixture on May 29, the hosts erased a first-half deficit to claim a thrilling 3-2 victory over Houston Dynamo FC in the first fill-capacity contest at Children's Mercy Park since March 7, 2020. The result gave Sporting their fourth comeback win of the 2021 campaign, three more than any other MLS team and already one shy of tying the single-season club record set in 1996 and 2007.
The momentous triumph against Houston saw 19-year-old midfielder Gianluca Busio bury a world-class free kick to level the score at 1-1 in the 51st minute before Alan Pulido converted a 61st-minute penalty and Gadi Kinda dispatched the game-winner four minutes later. Sporting has now scored three goals in three consecutive regular season games for the first time in team history and leads MLS in both goals scored (15) and goals per game (1.88). The club's attacking depth will be tested this weekend as Pulido is set to miss out due to national team commitments with Mexico.
A win on Saturday would give Sporting four straight regular season victories for the first time since August 2018 and vault the side ahead of unbeaten Seattle Sounders FC for first place in the Supporters' Shield race. Goalkeeper Tim Melia is also seeking his seven successive regular season win dating back to October 2020.
At the opposite end of the table, Austin FC occupies 11th place in the 13-team West. They began their maiden MLS season by winning two of their first three games, including a 3-1 result at the Colorado Rapids on April 24 and a 1-0 shutout of Minnesota United FC on May 1. Los Verdes have gone dry since then, going 0-3-1 in their last four and carrying a 353-minute scoreless drought into Saturday's matchup. The expansion outfit could be turning the tide, however, as they snapped a three-match losing skid with a well-earned scoreless draw at Seattle on May 30.
Saturday will serve as the final fixture of an eight-game road swing to kick off the season for Austin FC, which is scheduled to open its new Q2 Stadium on June 19 against the San Jose Earthquakes. Designated Player Cecilio Dominguez and MLS veteran Diego Fagundez lead the team with two goals apiece, goalkeeper Brad Stuver is third in the league with 29 saves, and midfielder Alex Ring ranks among the MLS leaders in duels won and passes completed.
Sporting and Austin waged their inaugural battle on May 9 as Vermes' side fought back to prevail 2-1 in a dramatic affair at Children's Mercy Park. After Jon Gallagher gave the visitors an early 1-0 cushion -- the most recent goal Austin has scored this season -- Ilie Sanchez nodded home a late equalizer and Kinda struck in the 90th minute to mark the seventh time that Kansas City has overturned a deficit after the 80th minute to win an MLS match.
A Sporting reunion that first took place May 9 will repeat on Saturday when three club legends return to Kansas City as opponents. Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff, assistant Davy Arnaud and defender Matt Besler, three of the most accomplished MLS players in team history, will descend on Children's Mercy Park in white and green. All three individuals left indelible marks as Kansas City players, combining for 784 competitive appearances and seven MLS All-Star selections.
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