Preview: Sporting to Visit Orlando City SC on Wednesday
A pair of clubs looking to boost their playoff odds will square off Wednesday night as Sporting Kansas City (7-10-7, 28 points) ventures southeast to face Orlando City SC (8-11-6, 30 points) at Exploria Stadium.
The interconference clash will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT with three hours of live coverage beginning at 6 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM will air local radio broadcasts, while fans beyond the FOX Sports Midwest viewing footprint can catch the action streaming live on ESPN Plus. Additional in-game updates and exclusive offers will be available via the Sporting KC App.
Supporters of all ages are invited to the official watch party for Wednesday's showdown at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.). From 6 p.m. CT until the final whistle, No Other Pub will serve an all-you-can-eat buffet with bottomless domestic drafts and sodas plus $4 specials on Bud Light drafts, Corona bottles, Captain Morgan and select call cocktails. Fans will also have the opportunity to enter to win a pair of tickets to an upcoming Sporting KC home match at Children's Mercy Park.
Both teams approach Wednesday on the wrong side of the playoff line heading into the regular season's stretch run. Eight points separate Sporting from the seventh and final playoff spot in the West, while Orlando trails seventh-place Montreal Impact by three points in the East.
Under the guidance of Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes, Sporting have reached the postseason every year since 2011 and boast four major championships this decade. With second-year head coach James O'Connor at the helm, Orlando continues to chase its first MLS Cup Playoffs appearance after joining the league via expansion in 2015.
Sporting suffered a frustrating 2-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday, taking the lead on a magisterial free kick from Johnny Russell before RSL struck twice through Corey Baird to emerge victorious. Russell now has eight league goals this season, second-most on the team behind Felipe Gutierrez's 10, and leads MLS with four strikes from outside the box in 2019.
With Daniel Salloi serving a red-card suspension and Gerso Fernandes (ankle) and Krisztian Nemeth (abdomen) potentially missing out through injury, Sporting may have to cope with as many as three attacking absences on Wednesday. Center back Botond Barath (back) is also ruled out, having missed two straight games with a back problem. Conversely, Benny Feilhaber is set to return from his yellow card suspension and will be available for selection alongside fellow midfielders Gutierrez, Roger Espinoza and Ilie Sanchez.
The summertime stretch of Orlando's campaign was highlighted by an impressive run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals. The Lions were edged in the penultimate round of the tournament, falling 2-0 at home to archrivals Atlanta United FC last Tuesday, but rebounded with a well-earned road result on Saturday as substitute Benji Michel bagged his second MLS goal in a 1-1 stalemate at Toronto FC.
Orlando has labored offensively throughout the summer, mustering just 11 goals in their last 10 league games and ranking 19th in MLS with 1.32 goals per match. That's no fault of Portuguese star Nani, the World Cup veteran who boasts a team-best eight goals and eight assists in his first MLS season. A former UEFA Champions League winner with Manchester United who later moved to Valencia and Lazio, Nani is one of four MLS players (Carlos Vela, Carles Gil, Alejandro Pozuelo) with eight goals and eight assists this year.
Among Orlando's other offensive options is Dom Dwyer, who amassed 67 goals for Sporting in all competitions from 2012-2017 before joining the Lions in a high-profile trade two summers ago. With two goals in his last 14 MLS appearances, the English striker has yet to catch fire in 2019.
Uruguayan playmaker Mauricio Pereyra signed a Designated Player contact with Orlando at the end of July and could be lined up for his MLS debut against Sporting. The 29-year-old most recently played in Russia for FC Krasnodar, where he appeared in 201 games and recorded 29 goals and 33 assists across all competitions. He has also featured for Club Nacional in Uruguay and Lanus in Argentina.
Sporting leads the all-time series against Orlando with a 2-1-1 record, including a 1-0 victory spurred by a Gutierrez strike when the teams last met on Sept. 8, 2018 at Children's Mercy Park. The most recent meeting in Orlando produced a 2-2 draw on May 13, 2017.
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