07/05/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/05/2019 12:01
Sporting Kansas City vs. Chicago Fire
Saturday, July 6, 2019 | 7:30 p.m. CT
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, KS
2019 MLS Regular Season | Match 19 of 34
English TV | FOX Sports Kansas City
English TV | FOX Sports Midwest Plus
English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM
Mobile | Sporting KC App, FOX Sports GO
Sporting Kansas City (4-7-7, 19 points) will play their second home match of the week when the Chicago Fire (5-7-7, 22 points) pay a Saturday visit to Children's Mercy Park at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the interconference clash are available at SeatGeek.com as a pair of longtime rivals battle for three points in the 54th regular season meeting of the series.
FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO will provide three hours of live coverage beginning at 7 p.m. CT, while listeners can catch the action locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM. Fans can also access the Sporting KC App for in-game updates and exclusive offers, including a digital coupon for free Breyers ice cream at any Price Chopper location in the Kansas City area.
Three days removed from a 5-1 defeat to MLS Supporters' Shield leaders LAFC, Sporting will aim to bounce back on Saturday and extend their home winning streak versus Chicago. Manager Peter Vermes' side has won three straight home meetings against the Fire and owns a 4-0-2 home record in the series since September 2012. Furthermore, Chicago enters the weekend on a 21-game road winless draught that dates back to last year, the longest active spell in MLS. Head coach Veljko Paunovic's men have gone 0-15-6 on their travels since winning 2-1 at Orlando City SC on May 26, 2018.
Sporting have lost two straight matches on home soil and will hope to avoid their first three-game home losing skid since 2014. Goalkeeper Time Melia will step between the posts on the brink of a major milestone, as his 56 career regular season wins are one shy of tying legend Jimmy Nielsen's all-time club record. Coincidentally, Melia's first triumph in a Sporting uniform came in May 2015 when he posted his first career MLS shutout in a 1-0 defeat of Chicago. Victory on Saturday would also give Sporting their 200th all-time regular season home win.
The Fire burned especially bright on Wednesday in a 5-1 demolition of reigning MLS Cup champion Atlanta United FC. Former Sporting forward C.J. Sapong bagged a brace, Argentine playmaker Nicolas Gaitan tallied a goal and three assists, and Atlanta were down 5-0 before the halftime whistle. The hosts coasted through the second half en route to victory, vaulting within a point of the playoff spots in the East.
Chicago occupies eighth place largely due to their dreadful road form, but a talented roster is adorned with numerous players capable of deciding matches. Gaitan ranks fourth in MLS with eight assists, Sapong leads the team with eight goals, and versatile attacker Aleksandar Katai is second in the league with 69 shot attempts. Further from goal, MLS veteran Dax McCarty and German World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger anchor an experienced midfield.
Neither side figures to be at full strength, as seven players adorn Sporting's injury report and Chicago midfielder Djordje Mihailovic is with the U.S. Men's National Team for the Concacaf Gold Cup. Of chief interest for Sporting fans, forward Johnny Russell (hamstring) and defenders Jimmy Medranda (hamstring) and Graham Zusi (adductor) are listed as day-to-day. Russell has enjoyed another strong campaign with seven MLS goals-tied for the team lead alongside Krisztian Nemeth and Felipe Gutierrez-while Zusi will be the club's lone representative at the 2019 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target on July 31.
The last two meetings between the clubs have seen Sporting prevail in high-scoring thrillers. The most recent fixture at Children's Mercy Park took place on July 29, 2017, when Daniel Salloi and Benny Feilhaber were among Sporting's goal scorers in a 3-2 victory. On March 10, 2018, Sporting ousted the Fire 4-3 in a barnburner at Toyota Park. The visitors took a 2-0 lead, conceded three goals in 12 minutes to fall behind 3-2, then rallied late behind Medranda and Gutierrez goals to claim a wild win.
The rivalry between Sporting and Chicago isn't as fierce as it once was, but the clubs nevertheless share a colorful history. Animosity entrenched the fixture in 2000, when the Kansas City Wizards edged out Chicago for the MLS Supporters' Shield by virtue of greater goal differential before sinking the Fire 1-0 in the MLS Cup Final on a goal from Miklos Molnar. Four years later, the Wizards earned an identical 1-0 triumph in the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final at Arrowhead Stadium, receiving a golden goal in the 95th minute courtesy of Igor Simutenkov.