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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

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Sporting KC Back Home Wednesday To Host Chicago Fire FC

A compelling cross-conference battle beckons on Wednesday as Sporting Kansas City (7-5-2, 23 points) welcomes Chicago Fire FC (4-7-4, 16 points) to world-class Children’s Mercy Park for a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff.

Tickets for the contest are available at SeatGeek.com with stadium capacity limited to 18% and comprehensive health and safety protocols in place. Supporters in attendance will receive a complimentary Sporting KC clear bag with any $35 purchase on concessions or merchandise, and all fans will have the opportunity to redeem a digital coupon for free Talenti gelato at any Kansas City area Price Chopper location from Wednesday to Friday.

FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO will provide three hours of live coverage on Wednesday starting at 7 p.m. CT, while listeners can catch the action locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM with the Final Whistle postgame show airing immediately afterward on 810 WHB. Viewers outside of the FOX Sports Midwest footprint can stream the game live on ESPN Plus.

Momentum is running high for Sporting Kansas City after Manager Peter Vermes’ men dispatched the Houston Dynamo by a 2-1 scoreline on Saturday at BBVA Stadium. On the cusp of his call-up to the Mexico Men’s National Team, striker Alan Pulido bagged both goals on assists from 18-year-old midfielder Gianluca Busio and claimed MLS Player of the Week honors for his game-changing performance. The result made Vermes the fifth head coach in MLS history to record 150 regular season wins and the first to hit the milestone with a single club.

Saturday’s triumph helped Sporting keep pace in the competitive Western Conference, four points back of leaders Seattle Sounders FC and six points above the playoff line. The club is currently amidst an unprecedented stretch of nine regular season fixtures in 30 days, the first such occasion in team history, with Wednesday marking the first of four remaining home matches at Children’s Mercy Park.

Although Sporting will have to atone for the absence of Pulido—who is tied for first among MLS newcomers with nine combined goals (five) and assists (four) in the regular season—the squad will be bolstered by the availability of midfielders Roger Espinoza and Gadi Kinda. Espinoza returned from injury as a second-half substitute on Saturday, vaulting to third place on the club’s all-time charts with his 292nd competitive appearance, and became the sixth Sporting player to tab 40 career assists by notching a secondary assist on Pulido’s game-winner. Kinda served a suspension for caution accumulation in Houston and figures to play an integral role moving forward, as he is tied for third on the team with four goals in his debut MLS campaign.

Under the guidance of first-year head coach Raphael Wicky, Chicago endured a poor start to 2020 by winning two of their first 12 regular season matches. That spell included a last-place finish in Group B of the MLS is Back Tournament in Walt Disney World and, more recently, lopsided defeats to Eastern Conference contenders Columbus Crew SC and Orlando City SC.

The Fire look to be on the uptick, however, as they have posted two wins and a draw in their last three outings. Slovenian forward and Designated Player Robert Beric has sparked the resurgence with goals in five consecutive appearances, good for the longest scoring streak by an MLS player this season. Midfielder Fabian Herbers has added two goals of his own over the last fortnight, while longtime Sporting forward C.J. Sapong opened his 2020 scoring account in a 4-0 throttling of Houston on Sept. 23. Another player hitting his stride is Spanish midfielder Alvaro Medran, who has a team-best four assists and previously plied his trade for the likes of Real Madrid, Valencia and Rayo Vallecano in his homeland.

Days after prevailing in the fourth head-to-head meeting against Houston this season, Sporting is set to host a pair of Eastern Conference teams for the first time in 2020. Vermes’ men last faced Chicago in July 2019, while expansion side Nashville SC will visit Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday night.

Sporting has notably won three straight regular season meetings versus Chicago dating back to 2017—a period that includes a 3-2 home triumph in 2017, a 4-3 thriller in Chicago in 2018 and a 1-0 home result over a year ago. Sporting also boasts a 5-0-2 record in the Fire’s last seven visits to Children’s Mercy Park since 2012. This paints a bleak picture for a Chicago side that has gone 0-4-3 in road matches this season.

Wednesday’s showdown serves up a rematch of MLS Cup 2000 and the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which stand as two of Sporting’s seven major championships to date. Kansas City edged Chicago by a 1-0 scoreline at MLS Cup 2000 in Washington, D.C., receiving a first-half goal from folk hero Miklos Molnar and 10 saves from MLS MVP Tony Meola. Sporting replicated the scoreline in a dramatic, extra-time triumph at Arrowhead Stadium in the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, riding to victory behind Igor Simutenkov’s 95th-minute golden goal.

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