Storylines - SKC 9_17

With just three games left in the MLS regular season and an international break to come after this weekend’s match, Storylines is ready to dig deep into some Kansas City barbecue as Minnesota United hooks up with one of their oldest and nicest rivals. Sporting Kansas City look to play spoiler to Minnesota’s playoff hopes.

Playoffs?!

A point on Tuesday against LAFC to break Minnesota’s losing skid came in quite handy on Wednesday, as many results below them took friendly turns. The Loons sit fifth in the Western Conference on 45 points, above Portland on total wins. Nashville (fourth, 46 points) and Dallas (third, 49 points) are both still within reach with positive results, but let’s look behind Minnesota. With losses on Wednesday, both Real Salt Lake (seventh, 43 points) and LA Galaxy (eighth, 40 points and a game in hand) failed to gain ground on Minnesota. With a win on Saturday, Minnesota can put an end to Kansas City’s faint playoff hopes, and ensure they finish above Colorado and Vancouver (both of whom won on Wednesday) without help. They cannot clinch a playoff spot due to both Seattle (ninth, 39 points) and LA Galaxy having a game in hand, but a Minnesota win combined with losses by the Galaxy against Colorado and Sounders against Vancouver would put the Loons on the brink. In that situation, both Seattle and LA would need to win out, beginning with their games over the international break, to catch Minnesota. If both drop points, Minnesota is in. As always, the most important thing is three points to bring home to Minnesota on Saturday.

Rhapsody in Blue

Sporting’s struggles to begin this season have been well acknowledged; the club have been in the West’s bottom three for almost the entire year, and have yet to depart it. However, it would be foolish to look past a club who has been in form better than most other teams in the league over the last month. Kansas City has acquired 14 of their 34 points on the season in their last nine matches (4-3-2), the exact amount of time since they signed Erik Thommy and William Agada and started scoring tons of goals. Sporting has scored almost half (17/36) of their goals on the season in the nine games since Thommy and Agada signed, with Agada’s combined seven goals and assists just one shy of leading the team in that area already. Their only three losses in this stretch came at the hands of the West’s top two teams in LAFC and Austin. Kansas City enters Saturday’s match on a five-game undefeated streak, clearly the form team on the day, and Minnesota will have quite the challenge to rein in an attack that, while still the worst in the West on the season, has been in dominant form lately. 

Shuffle the Deck

Minnesota was forced into another iteration of their attacking diamond in Tuesday’s game against LAFC. With Franco Fragapane suspended due to yellow card accumulation, Mender Garcia received the start on the left of the attacking three, with Robin Lod on the right flanking Emanuel Reynoso behind Luis Amarilla. Adrian Heath will once again be forced to shuffle the deck on Saturday; Fragapane returns from his two-game suspension, but Reynoso departs to serve his own yellow card accumulation suspension. The arrangement of the four players (or less, or more?) serves as one question, and the delegation of free kick duties serves as another. Minnesota’s scoreless streak was broken by a timely Brent Kallman header from a Reynoso corner kick, a play that has seen success for the Loons on occasion. Who will be seeking the heads of Kallman, Michael Boxall and others on Saturday when the opportunity arises?

MATCH INFO

Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United FC

Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas

09.17.2022 | MLS Game No. 32

7:30 p.m. CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North EXTRA, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)