Preview: Sporting to Visit FC Dallas in Sunday's Season Finale
Two MLS originals are set to square off on the final day of the 2019 regular season as Sporting Kansas City (10-15-8, 38 points) visits FC Dallas (12-12-9, 45 points) at Toyota Stadium. The 3 p.m. CT matchup is one of 12 MLS fixtures slated to unfold simultaneously on Decision Day, which will see the curtains close on Sporting's 24th campaign in Major League Soccer.
FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO will provide three hours of live coverage on Sunday beginning at 3 p.m. CT. The Western Conference clash will also air live locally on ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately following on 94.5 FM. Supporters can access the Sporting KC App for additional in-game updates and exclusive offers, and viewers outside the FOX Sports Midwest footprint can stream the action on ESPN Plus.
Fans of all ages are invited to the official watch party for Sunday's contest at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.). Beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT, No Other Pub will offer an endless wings and domestic beer package at $30 per person plus $4 specials on Bud Light drafts, Corona bottles and Captain Morgan cocktails. The venue will also conduct raffle giveaways for a variety of autographed Sporting KC merchandise.
Eliminated from playoff contention for the first time since 2010 -- drawing an end to the fourth-longest postseason streak in MLS history -- Sporting will embrace the spoiler role on Sunday against an FC Dallas side that currently holds the seventh and final playoff spot in the West. Manager Peter Vermes' men have featured in each of the last eight editions of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and although that run will end in 2019, Sporting still has the opportunity to end the season on a high note and quash the playoff hopes of a longtime rival.
Hungarian forwards Krisztian Nemeth and Daniel Salloi scored in Sporting's 2-2 home draw against the Portland Timbers last Sunday, ending the club's four-game losing skid in a pulsating battle that saw midfielders Roger Espinoza and Ilie Sanchez receive red cards. The midfielders will consequently miss Sunday's finale due to suspension, prompting Vermes to flex the depth at his disposal in a venue where FC Dallas has lost just once all year and just eight times over the last five seasons.
Last Friday at Pitch Black presented by Audi, Sporting announced the following winners for team awards: MVP Felipe Gutierrez, Offensive Player of the Year Johnny Russell and Defensive Player of the Year Tim Melia. All three will have the opportunity to cement their standout seasons this weekend. Gutierrez has a team-best 12 MLS goals, tied with Orlando City SC's Nani for the most among league midfielders in 2019. Russell has also thrived in attack, becoming the second player in club history to record at least nine goals and nine assists in consecutive regular seasons. Melia, who has a career-high 111 saves, is one shutout shy of passing Jimmy Nielsen for first place on the club's all-time chart.
One point above eighth-place San Jose and three points above ninth-place Colorado, FC Dallas can secure a berth in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs with any of the following scenarios:
A win over Sporting, OR
A draw if San Jose loses or ties at Portland, OR
A loss if San Jose loses at Portland and Colorado loses or ties at LAFC
Guided by first-year head coach Luchi Gonzalez, who previously served as director of the club's heralded academy, FC Dallas is winless in four matches since defeating FC Cincinnati on Aug. 31. Last Sunday's 3-0 loss at Colorado kept the Rapids' playoff aspirations alive and represented a missed opportunity for the Texas outfit to clinch a postseason berth with a game to spare.
Toyota Stadium has been a fortress for FC Dallas over the last half-decade. The club boasts a 52-8-24 regular season record on home soil since the start of 2015, including a 9-1-6 mark this year with the lone setback coming against the New York Red Bulls on May 11. Diminutive midfielder Michael Barrios ranks fifth in MLS with 13 assists, while 18-year-old forward Jesus Ferreira leads the side with seven goals.
Sporting hold a narrow 25-24-12 edge in an all-time regular season series that dates back to the inaugural 1996 MLS campaign. Dallas won the most recent meeting on July 20 at Children's Mercy Park, receiving goals in either half from Dominique Badji and Ferreira. The last time these teams met at Toyota Stadium in October 2018, Sporting strolled to a 3-0 victory with goals from Espinoza, Russell and Salloi.
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