Sporting KC is well rested heading into match at NYCFC

Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia has an MLS-best 10 shutouts (tied with two other players) and a 0.76 goals-against average.
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

It’s all about positioning as two teams firmly in control of their own playoff destiny square off at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night with New York City FC hosting Sporting Kansas City.

NYCFC sits in second place in the Eastern Conference. Toronto FC has run away with the top spot and appears set to claim the Supporters Shield. However, New York City (14-7-5) holds a three-point advantage on the third-place Chicago Fire with a game in hand, and a five-point margin on the fourth-place Columbus Crew with two games in hand.

The Western Conference is a little tighter, but Sporting KC (10-5-10) is in good position to claim the top spot. Currently in third place, two points behind first-place Seattle and one point behind second-place Portland, Sporting has two games in hand on the Sounders and three on the Timbers.

Sporting will be playing its first match since Aug. 19, when it defeated FC Dallas 2-0. The match at the Houston Dynamo scheduled for Aug. 26 was postponed due to Hurricane Harvey.

“It’s never easy when you have a bye week, let alone two weekends when you don’t play,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “The biggest thing for us was that we just kept our same exact schedule. We prepared like we were going to play games on Saturdays.”

These are two of the three best clubs in MLS in terms of points per game. NYCFC is at 1.81, second only to Toronto’s 2.07. Sporting is fourth in MLS with 1.6 points per game, best in the Western Conference.

New York City is 9-1-3 at Yankee Stadium this season.

Sporting continues to rely on defense. It is one of two clubs that have given up fewer than one goal per match. (Toronto is at 0.96.) Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia has an MLS-best 10 shutouts (tied with two other players) and a 0.76 goals-against average. Melia also has a 78.7 save percentage.

NYCFC, meanwhile, is tied for second in MLS with 48 goals. (Toronto has 55.) David Villa, who will miss Wednesday’s contest, has a comfortable lead in total goals in MLS with 19, three more than any other player.

Villa, who also leads New York City with nine assists, was recalled to the Spanish national team last week, but he sustained an injury in training Sunday.

Sporting will be without U.S. national team duo Matt Besler and Graham Zusi as well as New Zealand midfielder James Musa and Lebanon forward Soony Saad. NYCFC will miss Alexander Ring (Finland), Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica) and Yangel Herrera (Venezuela), who all have national team commitments this week.

“This match is going to be very tough because of the number of games we’re going to play,” New York City coach Patrick Vieira said about the first of six matches in September for his club. “When you’re missing players, you’re giving opportunities for other players to express themselves. Some players will get the chance to start that didn’t play for quite some time.”