Sporting KC looks to boost playoff chances against struggling Revolution

Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia leads MLS with 10 clean sheets and a goals-against average of 0.78.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The ultimate in home-field advantage will face the ultimate in road futility Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park. Riding a club-record 22-game home unbeaten streak in the MLS regular season, Sporting Kansas City (10-6-11, 41 points) will host a New England Revolution club that has yet to win a road game in 2017.

The Revolution (10-13-5) have collected three draws and 11 defeats on the road and face the task of beating a Sporting KC side that hasn’t lost an MLS match at Children’s Mercy Park since May 2016.

The match will be the first of a three-match MLS homestand (plus the U.S. Open Cup final on Sept. 20) that could lift the fourth-place Sporting club into much better playoff position. SKC currently sits in fourth place in the Western Conference, but just three points out of first place.

“It’s the perfect time to have home games,” Sporting KC forward Daniel Salloi said. “We are at the end of the season and we can’t make any more mistakes. It’s very important that our fans are going to be behind us.”

Sporting KC continues to rely on defense. Goalkeeper Tim Melia leads MLS with 10 clean sheets and a goals-against average of 0.78.

The Revolution find themselves six points below the red line in the Eastern Conference and will need a positive result to boost their fading playoff hopes.

New England will be just three days removed from a demoralizing 7-0 loss at Atlanta United FC on Wednesday. The blowout tied an all-time MLS record for largest margin of defeat and extended the Revs’ road winless drought to 16 games dating back to September 2016. To make matters worse, New England midfielder Xavier Kouassi and defender Antonio Delamea received first-half red cards and will be suspended Saturday.

“That was a tough game to swallow,” Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen said. “We’ve got to move past that and focus on Kansas City. They have a great style of play and a great system. It’s going to be a tough battle, but this is a game that we must get the three points.”

Saturday’s match features the return of three former Sporting KC players for New England. Kei Kamara (11 goals, four assists), Teal Bunbury (six goals) and recently-signed Krisztian Nemeth all enjoyed successful stints with Sporting before finding their way to Foxborough, Massachusetts.

New England has won four of the last five meetings in the series, including a 3-1 home win the last time the teams dueled last October. Sporting KC is 4-1-2 all-time against New England at Children’s Mercy Park, including a 4-2 triumph when the Revs last visited on May 20, 2015.

Both clubs will be without players due to injuries and suspensions. Sporting KC’s Roger Espinoza will serve a one-game ban through caution accumulation, while Soni Mustivar is ruled out with a strained hamstring. Salloi is listed as questionable with a hip ailment.

On the New England sideline, Kouassi and Delamea are out suspended alongside the injured Kelyn Rowe, who is nursing a knee sprain. Nguyen is questionable with a hamstring strain.