Sporting to Host Rivals Real Salt Lake on Saturday
Children's Mercy Park will host a pivotal Western Conference clash on Saturday when Sporting Kansas City (7-9-7, 28 points) and Real Salt Lake (10-9-4, 34 points) write the next chapter of their simmering rivalry. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT and tickets remain available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting hosts its third annual Sporting Salutes, an immersive military appreciation night for past and present members of the United States Armed Forces.
FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO will provide three hours of live match coverage beginning at 7 p.m. CT, while Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM will air live radio broadcasts with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately following on 810 WHB. Fans can also utilize the Sporting KC app for in-game updates, a digital coupon offering free Oreos at Price Chopper, and in-stadium mobile ordering for food, beverage and merchandise.
Fresh off a pulsating 3-2 road win over Seattle Sounders FC last Sunday, Sporting will now begin a decisive stretch of four matches in 13 days. Manager Peter Vermes' side occupies 10th place in the West with 28 points, five points below FC Dallas for the seventh and final playoff spot, while Real Salt Lake sit sixth with 34 points and have just one loss in their last eight league matches.
Sporting will view Saturday as a major opportunity to close the gap and build momentum for the monumental home stretch. Conversely, RSL will aim to move nine points clear of their rivals and deliver a brutal blow in Sporting's chase for a ninth straight postseason berth.
After missing four months with a knee injury, Erik Hurtado capitalized on his first MLS start for Sporting last weekend. The center forward was a constant menace for the Seattle backline, providing a physical presence up top and showcasing a lethal combination of strength and speed with his game-winning strike in the 58th minute. Elsewhere, Felipe Gutierrez's first-half brace lifted his MLS goal total to a team-best 10 in 2019, making him the fourth midfielder in club history to hit double-digit goals in a single regular season. Gutierrez now has three multi-goal games this year, tied for the fourth-most in MLS behind bona fide stars Carlos Vela, Josef Martinez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
RSL approach Saturday on a strong run of form, having defeated Eastern Conference contenders New York City FC by a 3-1 scoreline last Saturday. Influential midfielder Albert Rusnak scored and assisted in the home win to take his 2019 totals to a team-leading eight goals and four assists. Talented winger Jefferson Savarino also provided a goal and an assist and now has three goals and three assists over his last four MLS appearances.
Mike Petke is in his third season as RSL manager but won't make the trip to Kansas City this time around. The 43-year-old continues to serve a suspension for remarks made during a Leagues Cup match last month, meaning RSL will be led on Saturday by assistant coach Freddy Juarez. The visitors may also have to cope with the potential absence of striker Sam Johnson, who scored twice in a 2-0 win over Sporting on June 29 before suffering a quad injury in early July. On a related note, integral RSL center back Nedum Onuoha, who has missed five weeks with an adductor issue, is no longer on the injury report and could make his way back onto the pitch this weekend.
Both teams will be without the services of key midfielders as Sporting's Benny Feilhaber and RSL's Everton Luiz are suspended due to caution accumulation. On the Sporting KC injury front, Hungarian duo Botond Barath (back) and Krisztian Nemeth (abdomen) are listed as questionable, while Cam Duke (hamstring), Adrian Zendejas (back) and long-term absentee Rodney Wallace are ruled out.
Sporting have held the upper hand on Real Salt Lake in winner-take-all scenarios, boasting victories in the 2013 MLS Cup and 2018 Western Conference Semifinals as well as the 2015 and 2018 editions of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The regular season, however, has been a different story: Sporting are 1-7-5 in the last 13 regular-season meetings since 2014, and RSL were comfortable winners when the sides last met in June at Rio Tinto stadium. Vermes' men have also hit a rough patch at home, going 2-4-3 in their last nine league fixtures at Children's Mercy Park. By comparison, Sporting boasted a 29-3-13 regular season home record from June 2016 through March 2019.
An annual tradition will continue Saturday as the Sporting community tips its hat to military members and their families. This year, Sporting Salutes will welcome 12 Purple Heart recipients to Children's Mercy Park, all of whom were wounded during wartime. The venerated Purple Heart has been awarded since 1917 and remains a timeless symbol of service to the country. The 12 Purple Heart recipients to be honored before kickoff include local servicemen and servicewomen who were wounded during combat operations spanning from the Korean War to the present.
Fans in attendance can visit SportingStyle locations to purchase a variety of camo merchandise while supplies last, including the limited-edition Sporting Salutes Camo Training Top and Scarf of the Match. In addition to being available on matchday at Children's Mercy Park, the new Sporting Salutes Camo Training Top and Scarf of the Match can be purchased at SportingStyle.com and picked up at the stadium on Saturday. The training top is also on sale now at MLSstore.com.
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