With health no longer issue, Sporting KC face Union

League: MLS

Posted on: 02 Mar, 2024 at 03:01 AM

Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, Sporting Kansas City were held together by bailing wire and string. Multiple starters were expected to miss the first few matches of the season; others were expected to miss significant time.

This season, as Sporting KC (0-0-1, 1 point) prepare for their home opener on Saturday against the Philadelphia Union (0-0-1, 1 point), the roster is deep and healthy.

Sporting started last season 0-7-3 with a total of three goals scored in those 10 matches. Once players started to return, however, things clicked. SKC became the first club in MLS history to reach the playoffs after starting the season winless in its first 10 matches. From that point on, Sporting led the West in points (41), wins (12) and goals per game (1.88) and ranked second in goal differential (plus-10).

Coach Peter Vermes expects striker Alan Pulido to be at the front of the action in 2024 with forwards Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell also at full strength.

Salloi is excited about the possibilities.

"It's nice to go through a preseason, and then look around and be like, ‘OK, we're ready,'" he said. "I just hope it's going to show up on the weekend."

While Sporting Kansas City opened the new season last week with a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo, Philadelphia drew 2-2 with Chicago in the Union's home opener.

Philadelphia rallied from a goal down twice in the match. Mikael Uhre tied it at 1-1 in the 55th minute. Chicago regained the lead in the 82nd minute, but Daniel Gazdag put away a header from midfielder Jose Martinez to tie the match in stoppage time.

"We showed a lot of character to get back in the game," Union coach Jim Curtin said. "Obviously, we're never happy with a tie at home. But at the same time, early in the year, (there are) still things to build on. The guys pushed till the end. Overall, a point."

Philadelphia and Sporting KC have squared off 18 times in the regular season with the series knotted at 6-6-6, including last season's 0-0 draw.

--Field Level Media