Two sides coming off losses will square off Saturday evening in a Western Conference clash that historically has been a low-scoring affair when Sporting Kansas City hosts the Colorado Rapids in Kansas City, Kan.
The teams battled to a 2-2 draw in Commerce City, Colo., in March, the first time since 2014 that both sides had scored multiple goals in the same match.
Sporting (5-2-2, 17 points) saw its seven-match unbeaten streak come to an end in a 1-0 loss at New England. SKC failed to score a goal for only the second time — and first since a 2-0 setback at home to NYCFC in the season opener.
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Sporting remains in first place in the Western Conference table, two points ahead of Los Angeles FC, which has played two fewer matches.
“It wasn’t a good game,” Sporting manager Peter Vermes said following the match. “I don’t think it was a good game to watch. It was like car crashes all over the field. At some point, I thought I was maybe watching a tennis match because the ball was in the air so much. I don’t think it was a good game from that perspective, but I don’t think any team really did anything to warrant three points.
“At the end, of the day it’s probably a 0-0 game and that’s probably where it would have ended off.”
Colorado (2-3-2, 8 points) fell 2-1 at home to Orlando City, the second loss in a row for the Rapids. Colorado held a 1-0 lead at halftime but gave up two second-half goals. The Rapids are now two points below the red line in the Western Conference, in a three-way tie with the Houston Dynamo and Portland Timbers.
Colorado coach Anthony Hudson knows his team has to be ready for a smarting side in Sporting KC.
“It’s a massive test for us because they are such a good team,” he said. “I think what we’re finding is that we’re in every game. We are working very hard to create a mentality here.”
The Rapids acquired attacking midfielder Sam Nicholson from Minnesota United FC, as well as an international roster spot, in exchange for defender Eric Miller and $50,000 in General Allocation Money.
“We’re very pleased to add another key element to our attack,” said Rapids executive vice president and general manager Padraig Smith. “Sam is a high-intensity player who looks to break lines and get forward. He also has a very high soccer IQ, fits our system very well and will be a quality addition to our locker room. We look forward to welcoming him to Colorado.”
Sporting again will be without midfielder Felipe Gutierrez, who underwent successful sports hernia surgery Tuesday. He is expected to miss two to three months. Gutierrez was named MLS player of the month for March after scoring five goals in his first five games.
The injury, originally believed to be inflammation in a bone near his hip, has held Gutierrez out of the starting lineup in four consecutive matches. Sporting KC is 2-1-1 in those games. He subbed into a match on April 20, playing the final 14 minutes and attempting a pair of shots. But the injury did not respond well over the course of the ensuing week, and he did not make the trip to New England.
Sporting Kansas City owns a slight 24-23-13 advantage in the series, including 19-5-5 in Kansas City.