Whitecaps FC-Sporting Kansas City Preview
If the Vancouver Whitecaps' winning streak is going to match their longest as an MLS club, it'll have to happen in one of the league's most unwelcoming venues.
What's already possibly the most dominant stretch in club history will be put to the test Saturday night at Sporting Park as Kansas City attempts to remain the only unbeaten home side in MLS in a meeting of Western Conference powers.
Vancouver (13-8-3) has won three straight in league play with a 10-1 aggregate that's propelled it to a league-high 42 points. The only club averaging more than its 1.75 points per game is Sporting (1.76), which is five points back with three games in hand.
The Whitecaps' 4-0 home win over Real Salt Lake last Saturday followed a 3-0 victory in Seattle on Aug. 1, pushing their league-best road record to 7-4-2 with the top goal differential moving to plus-5. Defender Pa-Modou Kah totaled three goals in the back-to-back shutouts after going without one in his previous 18 games, and Cristian Techera scored twice against Salt Lake.
Extending the streak would match their four-game run from March 14-April 4 for the club's best in five MLS seasons, and it'd also give them their top single-season league win total with more than two months remaining.
The dominance was slowed some in Wednesday's 2-2 draw in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final in Montreal after Vancouver took a 2-0 lead. Coach Carl Robinson made eight lineup changes from the Salt Lake match to face the Impact in anticipation of this test against Kansas City.
"We know we've won the last couple of games, but every game is difficult in this league," Robinson said. "We go to KC, which we know they're unbeaten at home so we know it's going to be a difficult game for us. ... We look forward to it. We'll rest up. We know it's going to be tough. Everything is against us, but that's life."
Sporting (10-4-7) is also coming off a dominant showing against Salt Lake in Wednesday's 3-1 U.S. Open Cup semifinal victory. It improved the club to 11-0-4 at home in all competitions for its longest unbeaten run in club history.
Kansas City preceded that with a 3-1 league win in Toronto last Saturday, and Benny Feilhaber was a big part of both multigoal wins. The midfielder had a goal and an assist in each, giving him 10 goals and 17 assists for the season in all competitions. His next assist will tie Preki's single-season club record.
"He's locked in," captain Matt Besler told the club's official website. "Everyone loves scoring goals. Everyone loves getting assists. Everyone loves winning. Benny's focus to do it day in, day out is something I've never seen from him before."
Feilhaber's success is just one dimension of a balanced attack that also includes 12-goal seasons from Dom Dwyer and Krisztian Nemeth, marking the first time in club history three players have reached double-digit totals across all competitions.
Feilhaber has at least a goal or an assist in six straight matches since being held off the score sheet in Sporting's 1-0 victory in Vancouver on July 12, which boosted Kansas City's record to 3-1-2 in the all-time series.