All-or-nothing match ahead for Minnesota United, Sporting KC
Posted on: 21 Oct, 2023 at 01:11 AM
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
It's been a season of ups and downs, but Minnesota United and Sporting Kansas City can put the turmoil in the rearview mirror as the two sides match up Saturday night in Kansas City, Kan.
Minnesota and Kansas City are in identical positions, though they took different paths to get there. Minnesota (10-12-11, 41 points) went 3-0-2 to start the season, followed by an 0-5-1 stretch over the next six matches.
The Loons defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy 5-2 in their most recent match Oct. 7 to snap a seven-match winless streak that cost Adrian Heath, the only head coach they've ever had, his job.
Sporting KC (11-14-8, 41 points) didn't get a win until their 11th match of the season. SKC then heated up, going 5-1-2 over the next eight matches. Since the Leagues Cup ended in early August, SKC have gone 5-3-0.
Saturday likely will provide both clubs the opportunity to make the MLS Cup Playoffs with a win. Anything less ends the season.
Portland, Dallas and San Jose all have 43 points. Wins by any of those teams will clinch them postseason spots. Ties will subject them to tiebreakers. Barring a tie in Kansas City, losses will send those teams home.
Both coaches are approaching the match the same way.
"Since coming out of Leagues Cup, we've had to get points in every single game," Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said Thursday. "I said a long time ago when we were obviously in our bad spell, the biggest objective for us was to be patient. The guy who had to have the most patience was me.
"We wanted to come out of Leagues Cup with an opportunity to push to be part of the playoffs. (The players) have put us in this position where we're still alive at the very end when everybody wrote us off completely."
Interim Minnesota coach Sean McAuley had the same message.
"We're going into the game with nothing else other than winning (on our minds)," McAuley said. "Nothing else. I don't need to keep an eye on the (other) results. It's basically ourselves against KC. (It's) one game. Try and win it."
Teemu Pukki has emerged for Minnesota this season and potted a team-high 10 goals, including racking up four goals Oct. 7 against the Galaxy. Alan Pulido leads SKC with 14 goals.
--Field Level Media