You could argue there was no hotter place in the Midwest, despite the recent heat wave, than Livestrong Park.
That’s the new home for Sporting Kansas City, today’s opponent for the Seattle Sounders FC. The soccer-specific stadium has been a tonic for the franchise, which has run off a 14-game unbeaten streak after beating Real Salt Lake, 2-0, Wednesday.
With the Major League Soccer win, Sporting K.C. vaulted into a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference with the New York Red Bulls.
It took Sporting K.C., which is now 7-6-9 and above .500 for the first time since a season-opening win March 19 at Chivas USA, barely 20 seconds to threaten the Real Salt Lake goal.
“This was probably the best 90-minute performance that we’ve played all year,” Kansas City manager Peter Vermes said.
“We started from where we left off the last game in the way we were pushing,” Vermes said. “Our defense was strong and it was very difficult to break us down.”
Actually, Kansas City has been doing well ever since a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 14.
Since that game, the team is 8-2-9 in all competitions, with 28 goals scored during that span.
One of the losses, however, was in Seattle and delivered by the Sounders on May 21, a 1-0 win by Seattle when Jeff Parke headed in a goal off a corner kick by Tyson Wahl in added time.
The win over Real Salt Lake was impressive given that RSL does not give up goals easily. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando entered that game with nine shutouts, second in MLS, and a 0.78 goals-against average but surrendered goals to Roger Espinoza and Teal Bunbury.
“I feel like I’m putting myself in the spots I need to be as a striker and maybe before I wasn’t,” Bunbury said.
Sporting Kansas City will be without Espinoza today after he was red-carded versus Real Salt Lake. He was sent off for a reckless tackle against Kyle Beckerman in the 56th minute after his scissor takedown from behind.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid has little sympathy about Sporting K.C.’s personnel issues or having had to play on Wednesday. The Sounders also played Wednesday – they defeated San Francisco of Panama, 2-0, in added time in a CONCACAF Champions League preliminary game.
So Schmid has worries of his own going into tonight’s game, which is likely to be played in muggy 90-degree heat with a chance of thunderstorms. He said the team will bring 20 players in order to find enough who are able to play.
“We feel good about our fitness level,” Schmid said. “We’re going into another warm climate. The good thing is Kansas City had to play (Wednesday) as well and they ended up playing a man down in the second half. They didn’t get overtime minutes, but it is what it was. That’s why I wish we’d finished it 45 minutes earlier, but it is what it is and we’ll deal with it.”
SOUNDERS FC (10-5-8, 38 POINTS) AT SPORTING KANSAS CITY (7-6-9, 30 POINTS)
KICKOFF: 5:30 p.m., Livestrong Park, Kansas City, Kan.
TV: Ch. 6/16. RADIO: 97.3-FM
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Seattle leads, 4-1. The Sounders won the earlier game this season, 1-0, in added time at Seattle.
TEAM LEADERS: For Seattle – goals: 6, Fred Montero and Alvaro Fernandez; assists: 6, Mauro Rosales; shots: 63, Montero; shots on goal: 26, Montero; goal-against average: 1.13, Kasey Keller. For Kansas City – G: 5, Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury; A: 4, C.J. Sapong; S: 52, Kamara; SG: 17, Omar Bravo; GA: 1.23; Jimmy Nielsen.
NOTES: This is the fourth of nine straight home dates for K.C. K.C. has allowed more than one goal only once in its past 14 outings and a total of six goals in its first seven matches at its new home.
NEXT: 1 p.m. Aug. 13, Sounders FC vs. Chivas USA, CenturyLink Field.
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