Preview: Sporting KC Visits Chicago Fire FC on Saturday
A demanding month of October will continue for Sporting Kansas City (9-6-2, 29 points) when the club visits Chicago Fire FC (5-8-4, 19 points) on Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field.
The cross-conference conference clash is slated for 2:30 p.m. CT with three hours of live regional coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO. The contest will also air live nationally in Spanish on Univision and TUDN while streaming in English on @TUDNUSA Twitter. ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM will provide local radio broadcasts, and the Sporting KC app will provide additional in-game updates.
Taking the field for the fifth time in 15 days on Saturday, Sporting will be less than 72 hours removed from a controversial 1-0 loss at FC Dallas on Wednesday that snapped the club's three-game winning streak. After Ryan Hollingshead fired the hosts into a first-half lead, Johnny Russell appeared to have equalized for Sporting in the 87th minute. The goal was disallowed, however, as referee Armando Villarreal deemed Sporting midfielder Gadi Kinda to have fouled Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Mauer amidst the goalmouth scramble. The frustrating result marked the first time Sporting has failed to score in the 2020 regular season, ending a league-best scoring streak of 16 matches.
Despite the midweek setback, Manager Peter Vermes' side remains only a point out of first place in the Western Conference behind co-leaders Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers. A victory over Chicago would vault Sporting into pole position heading into the final three weeks of the regular season. Fire FC, meanwhile, are tied with Atlanta United FC for the 10th and final playoff spot in the East and seeking just their second postseason berth in the last nine years.
Unlike Sporting, Chicago will enter the weekend on full rest after their Wednesday matchup at Minnesota United FC was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns within the Minnesota camp. Fire FC most recently posted a 2-1 home win last Sunday, spearheaded by a pair of Alvaro Medran assists to Boris Sekulic and former Sporting forward C.J. Sapong. Medran leads the Fire with 28 chances created and six assists on the year, while striker Robert Beric has a team-best seven goals in his debut MLS campaign.
Led by first-year head coach Raphael Wicky, who previously coached Sporting midfielder Gianluca Busio at the U.S. U-17 level, Chicago are 4-1-1 at home this season and 3-1-1 in their last five matches. The lone loss during that stretch came at the hands of Sporting in a 1-0 decision at Children's Mercy Park on Oct.7, which saw goalkeeper Tim Melia save a Beric penalty kick and center back Winston Reid open his MLS scoring account off a Russell corner kick in the 67th minute.
Chicago leads the all-time regular season series with a 26-18-11 record dating back to the club's inaugural campaign in 1998. However, recent results have belonged to Sporting, who have won six of the last seven meetings and each of the last four since 2017. Sporting's last trip to Chicago was a wild 4-3 triumph in March 2018 that saw Russell, Felipe Gutierrez and Daniel Salloi among the goal scorers.
The Fire spent their first seven MLS seasons at storied Soldier Field in downtown Chicago before moving to SeatGeek Stadium in the Bridgeview suburbs in 2006. The club returned to Soldier Field this year and currently owns three-game winning streak at the venue. Saturday will be Sporting's first match at Soldier Field since Aug. 10, 2005, when the Wizards claimed their first-ever win at the stadium in a 3-2 thriller.
By coincidence, this week marks the 20-year anniversary of Sporting's 1-0 victory over Chicago in MLS Cup 2000 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. On Oct. 15, 2000, the Wizards received an early goal from Miklos Molnar and 10 saves from goalkeeper Tony Meola-now Chicago's color TV analyst-to oust the Fire in a championship match for the ages. Vermes, who played the full 90 minutes in central defense to help Kansas City to its first MLS Cup title, will man the sidelines this time around as the longest-tenured head coach in the league.
Sporting Kansas City at Chicago Fire FC
2020 MLS Regular Season | Match 18 of 23
Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020 | 2:30 p.m. CT
Soldier Field | Chicago, Illinois
English TV | FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest
Spanish TV | Univision, TUDN
English Streaming | FOX Sports GO, @TUDNUSA Twitter
Spanish Streaming | Univision NOW, TUDN.com
English Radio | ESPN 94.5 FM
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
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