Minnesota United-Sporting Kansas City Preview

Two weeks after matching up in Minneapolis, Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United FC will square off Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. Both sides have something to prove.

Sporting (7-2-4, 25 points), which has yet to beat Minnesota on the road in three tries, looks to re-establish their home dominance. After averaging 2.4 goals per home match in their first five matches, they have only scored one goal in their last two.

Minnesota (5-7-1, 16 points) will try to show that it can compete on the road. Their 1-5-0 mark away from TCF Bank Stadium is the third-worst road record in MLS.

SKC and Minnesota played to a 1-1 draw on May 20. Sporting’s Khyri Shelton scored his first Sporting KC goal in the eighth minute. But Darwin Quintero answered with a goal off a deflection to even the score in the 20th minute.

Sporting dominated the possession and the stat sheet, but couldn’t dent the back of the net other than Shelton’s goal. SKC out-shot Minnesota 24-6 and held 61 percent possession for the game, but Minnesota keeper Bobby Shuttleworth made a career-best nine saves.

“We felt we were going to get one (a goal) there,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said of the missed opportunity to take three points on the road. “We had quite a few chances around the box. The goalkeeper made some good saves.

“Every time we can steal some points at somebody else’s place it’s a good day. It was a good point for us. (Shelton) rose way above everybody and finished it very well. There’s no chance (Shuttleworth) could have stopped that one.”

If Minnesota can earn the rare road win, the three points could push them above the red line. Their 16 points has the Loons two points behind sixth-place Houston and three behind fifth-place Real Salt Lake.

Minnesota earned a 2-0 home victory over Montreal May 26. Second-half goals by Christian Ramirez and Miguel Ibarra six minutes apart lifted the Loons. Shuttleworth had four saves and earned his second clean sheet of the season.

“We are getting better and we still have a long way to go to be where I want us to be,” Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said. “To be in and around the playoffs with the Galaxy and one or two others, we’ll probably take that.”

Sporting has been at or near the top of the Western Conference table all season, despite three straight draws. They currently hold a two-point lead over FC Dallas, which is 3-0-2 in their last five matches.

Unlike the match in Minnesota, Sporting was relieved to walk away with a point on a 0-0 draw against the Columbus Crew on May 27. Tim Melia stopped a penalty kick by Gyasi Zardes after picking up a foul in the box on a charge by Zardes. Neither team mounted much of an offensive attack in the match.

Sporting KC won both matches in Kansas City last year, including a 3-0 victory in the MLS play and one in the U.S. Open Cup. Jimmy Medranda, who was pulled in the first half in Minneapolis and missed the Columbus game, is listed as questionable with an undisclosed injury. He looked hobbled in the 20 minutes of action against the Loons.