Preview: Sporting Visits Toronto FC on Friday
Two teams looking to build momentum ahead of the Concacaf Gold Cup break will lock horns Friday when Sporting Kansas City (3-5-6, 15 points) ventures north of the border to face Toronto FC (5-6-3, 18 points) in a 6 p.m. CT kickoff.
FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports Go will provide three hours of live coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. CT, while listeners can catch the action on ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC (Spanish). Additional in-game updates and exclusive offers will be available via the Sporting KC App.
In conjunction with Friday's showdown, fans of all ages are invited to attend Sporting's annual First Friday Party from 5-10 p.m. CT in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District (2020 Baltimore Ave., Kansas City, MO). Guests who RSVP to the free watch party event at SportingKC.com/FirstFriday will be treated to complimentary beverages and receive a Sporting KC pint glass.
The summer celebration will feature yard games, a DJ and No Other Bus, the club's double-decker bus transformed into the ultimate Sporting entertainment space. Exclusive Sporting KC art pieces will also be available for purchase.
Manager Peter Vermes' men are set to play their second of five away matches during the month of June, having earned a 1-1 tie at the Houston Dynamo last Saturday. Frenchman Yohan Croizet fired the visitors ahead near the hour mark with a superb chip shot, but Houston equalized shortly thereafter through Alberth Elis. With 14 MLS fixtures played and 20 to go, Sporting occupies 10th place in the Western Conference and sits four points below the seventh and final playoff spot.
Toronto stormed to a historic treble of trophies in 2017, winning the MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield and Canadian Championship, but crashed back to earth last year and missed the playoffs. Head coach Greg Vanney's team most recently scrapped to a 1-1 road draw at Vancouver Whitecaps FC last Friday, as substitute Nick DeLeon bagged a 90th-minute equalizer to halt the Reds' losing streak at two games.
Sporting and Toronto have experienced similar ups and downs in 2019, storming out of the gates before hitting a springtime slump. After hammering the likes of Toluca and Independiente in the Champions League and hanging seven goals on the Montreal Impact, Sporting have earned just one win in their last 10 league matches. Toronto began the season with three straight wins but have gone 2-6-3 since then, and their current six-game winless draught is the longest active skid in MLS.
Through their highs and lows, Toronto has seen unquestioned consistency from talismanic midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo. The 27-year-old Spaniard joined TFC at the start of the season and has recorded five goals and six assists across 11 MLS appearances, ranking fourth in the league in chances created.
Sporting has ruled the head-to-head series with an iron fist. Vermes' side is 11-1-4 in the last 16 meetings against Toronto, going unbeaten in nine straight since 2013 with a 6-0-3 record. Toronto's 14 regular-season losses to Sporting are their second-most against any MLS opponent.
Perhaps more remarkably, Sporting are 4-0-3 in their last seven visits to BMO Field and haven't lost at the venue since April 2009. Toronto last beat Sporting in March 2013, a 1-0 home win at Rogers Centre. Kansas City's five road wins in Toronto (5-3-4 overall) are the second-most in MLS history behind D.C. United's eight.
Neither team will be at full strength on Friday, largely due to the fact that national teams across the globe will take the field this weekend. Sporting will be without European quartet Botond Barath, Krisztian Nemeth, Nico Hasler and Johnny Russell, all of whom have traveled abroad for UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying. Toronto, meanwhile, have been stripped of numerous Concacaf Gold Cup participants, including influential Americans Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley and Canadian Jonathan Osorio.
Sporting's ever-improving bill of health could ease the effects of four international absences. Important contributors Gerso Fernandes, Andreu Fontas, Jimmy Medranda, Daniel Salloi and Graham Zusi have all missed time this spring, but none are on the club's injury report going into Friday. Captain Matt Besler is questionable with a hamstring injury, while Roger Espinoza remains out as he rehabs a PCL sprain in his knee.
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