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Preview: Sporting to Host Houston in Saturday Home Opener

March 6, 2020 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Sporting Kansas City News Release

Sporting Kansas City (1-0-0, 3 points) will kick off the club's 10th home campaign at world-class Children's Mercy Park on Saturday, hosting rivals Houston Dynamo (0-0-1, 1 point) in a long-awaited and highly anticipated Western Conference showdown at 7:30 p.m. CT. A limited number of tickets for the match, including standing-room only tickets, are available at SeatGeek.com as Manager Peter Vermes' men return for their first home fixture in over five months.

FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO will provide three hours of live coverage on Saturday beginning at 7 p.m. CT. Listeners can also catch the action locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM, while viewers beyond the FOX Sports Midwest footprint can stream the contest on ESPN Plus.

Supporters are encouraged to arrive early on Saturday and the first 10,000 fans through the stadium gates will receive a free rally towel courtesy of match sponsor UMB Bank. Sporting KC schedule magnets will also be available upon exit at the end of the night. Additionally, all fans who place merchandise pre-orders at SportingStyle.com will receive a $20 SportingStyle gift card with their purchase. Those who buy their Sporting gear at the stadium on Saturday will get a $10 SportingStyle gift card.

Palpable excitement abounds after Sporting raced to an impressive 3-1 road victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC last weekend in Week 1. Marquee newcomers Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda both scored first-half goals on their MLS debuts and are now set for their maiden appearances at Children's Mercy Park. Fellow MLS debutant Roberto Puncec partnered Sporting captain Matt Besler in central defense against Vancouver and was also involved in a scoring play, assisting Pulido with a cushioned header.

In an entertaining encounter with the Whitecaps, Pulido buried a pinpoint header and Kinda -- an MLS Team of the Week selection -- sunk a magisterial curler that was nominated for MLS Goal of the Week. With Sporting up 2-1 deep into second-half stoppage time, substitutes Gerso Fernandes as Erik Hurtado combined for a stunning goal that put the game out of reach, with Gerso pirouetting around a defender and serving a ball for Hurtado to volley home emphatically.

The Dynamo were unable to get off to a winning start last Saturday but managed to avoid defeat in a 1-1 home draw with the LA Galaxy at BBVA Compass Stadium. Cristian Pavon fired the visitors ahead in the first half on a wonderfully taken right-footed strike, but Houston forward Mauro Manotas restored parity after halftime. Manotas, who has seven goals in eight competitive appearances against Sporting, has amassed 49 goals in 130 career MLS matches over the last five years.

Vermes is the longest-tenured head coach in MLS and the league's only coach to spend a dozen consecutive seasons with the same team. He will coach his 350th regular season match on Saturday -- becoming the fifth MLS manager to do so -- and will reach the milestone against a friend and former teammate who enters his first year in charge of Houston. Tab Ramos, who served as the United States U-20 head coach from 2011-2019, has jumped to MLS with intentions of leading Houston to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017. Vermes and Ramos, both 53 years old, were teammates on four different teams during their playing days: the United States Men's National Team, the New Jersey Eagles, Spanish side Figueres and the New York/New Jersey MetroStars of MLS.

No opponent has faced Sporting more frequently since 2011 than the Dynamo. The clubs have squared off on 32 occasions over the last 10 seasons, with Sporting collecting 12 wins, 10 ties and 10 losses in those games. Vermes' side is 3-0-2 in the last five regular season meetings, posting three shutouts during that stretch, and has won each of the last two at Children's Mercy Park -- including a 1-0 decision last August that saw Scottish winger Johnny Russell dispatch a first-half header. Sporting also boasts a 14-3-7 all-time record in home openers and has just one loss in nine previous openers at Children's Mercy Park.

Both teams are seeking strong starts to 2020 after missing the postseason last year. Sporting made eight consecutive playoff appearances from 2011-2018, the fourth-longest streak in MLS history, but an injury-riddled 2019 campaign brought that run to an end. Houston, meanwhile, began last season with a 6-1-1 record before slumping the rest of the way, going 6-17-3 from mid-May onward.


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