With a restful international break in the rearview mirror, Sporting Kansas City (1-1-1, 4 points) will kick off a crucial stretch of five matches in 16 days on Saturday when the Montreal Impact (2-1-0, 6 points) visit Children’s Mercy Park for the resumption of the MLS regular season.
Tickets for the 2 p.m. CT showdown remain available at SeatGeek.com, and the first 10,000 fans through the stadium gates will receive a free Sporting KC drawstring bag.
FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO will provide three hours of live coverage on Saturday beginning at 1:30 p.m. CT, while local radio broadcasts will air live on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish). The new Sporting KC app will also feature in-game updates and exclusive offers to fans.
Saturday’s cross-conference clash involves two teams hopeful of building on recent success.
Sporting is perfect at Children’s Mercy Park this season, winning all three games while outscoring opponents 8-0, and is the only MLS club that has reached the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals. Montreal, meanwhile, has already secured two away victories this year and is one shy of equaling its road win total from 2018.
Led by veteran manager Peter Vermes, Sporting is almost two weeks removed from a 1-1 road result against the Colorado Rapids that saw Johnny Russell equalize late with a free kick.
Russell was one of five Sporting players who traveled abroad for international duty during the FIFA window, scoring his first goal for Scotland in a 2-0 defeat of San Marino last Sunday.
Among the other returnees are Hungarian duo Botond Barath and Krisztian Nemeth, U.S. U-20 defender Jaylin Lindsey and Rwandan center back Abdul Rwatubyaye.
Nemeth is on the brink of his 50th appearance for Sporting in all competitions and enters the weekend in a rich vein of form. The striker has notched five goals in six appearances this season, serving as the main dangerman of an attack that has also benefited from Russell and Gerso Fernandes, who has tallied two goals and two assists in the Champions League.
The trio will try to compensate for the loss of winger Daniel Salloi, the club’s 2018 leading scorer who will miss Saturday’s match with an ankle injury.
The Impact missed the playoffs in 2017 and 2018, but second-year manager Remi Garde has his side trending in the right direction. Montreal is 12-6-4 since June 13, 2018, an impressive spell that includes a 2-0 home win over Sporting last summer.
The Canadian side has won two away games this season-having won just three in all of 2018-and will open their 2019 campaign with six straight road tilts before returning to the friendly confines of Stade Saputo.
Few MLS players have been as dominant over the last four seasons as Montreal’s attacking midfielder Ignacio Piatti.
The talismanic Argentine scored twice in a 3-1 win over Orlando SC on March 16, becoming the ninth-fastest player in league history to amass 100 combined goals (66) and assists (34) by doing so in 127 appearances. Piatti is also accustomed to putting Sporting to the sword, having scored in three of the last four meetings between the sides.
Piatti is doubtful for Saturday as he nurses an undisclosed injury, which will put extra attacking responsibilities on Algerian playmaker Saphir Taider. The French-born midfielder registered seven goals and eight assists in his first MLS season last year and has already struck twice in 2019, including the winner in a 2-1 triumph at San Jose on March 2.
Sporting is 4-1-2 against Montreal in the last seven regular season matchups, owning a 6-4-3 edge in the all-time series, but has failed to win three straight meetings. This includes last year’s 2-0 setback on Canadian soil and a 1-1 stalemate when the sides last met at Children’s Mercy Park in June 2017. Gerso fired the hosts into a first-half lead in that game, but Montreal found a late leveler courtesy of former forward Matteo Mancosu.
Vermes’ side is unbeaten in seven consecutive regular season home games dating back to last August and boasts a 28-3-13 regular season home record since June 2016.
Sporting hopes that winning trend continues Saturday to build momentum ahead of a Champions League clash with Mexican giants CF Monterrey. The first leg will take place April 4 at Estadio BBVA Bancomer in Monterrey before Sporting is the host of the decisive second leg on April 11. Tickets for the latter matchup – possibly the biggest in Sporting’s international history – are on sale at SeatGeek.com.