The bottom two teams in the Western Conference meet on Saturday when the Vancouver Whitecaps go to Sporting Kansas City, although both have seen their spirits lifted this week.
Sporting KC in particular is a surprise presence at the foot of the table in the West, having for so long challenged at the top of the league. There is still time for these sides to turn their fortunes around, however, and both believe they are already getting back on track.
SKC beat the Houston Dynamo in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, while Vancouver pipped Cavalry on penalties in the Canadian Championship.
“We’re fighting through it right now,” said Sporting KC defender Andreu Fontas. “It’s a mentality. We need to be tough.We know that we are suffering this season and that things are not as we expected at the beginning of the season. No excuses. We have to fight through it and get results.
“We are going in the right direction. Everybody is fighting, everybody is giving everything that they have. We probably are not doing our best the whole game, but everybody is pushing together in the same direction and it’s huge.”
Meanwhile, Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini was encouraged by his team’s fight that led to a late equalizer prior to the shootout.
“If the game was played like a month ago, we would have lost,” he said. “We found the resource, we found the strength, we found the willingness to come back and to score and even to have another couple of chances to finish before the extra time. So I think that on a mental side but also on the physical side, we are in a very good moment.
“Hopefully we broke the spell. And for sure I’m gonna I’m going wear the same jumper that I had (against Cavalry).”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sporting Kansas City – Johnny Russell
Captain Russell described this month’s 7-2 defeat to the Portland Timbers as “embarrassing”, but SKC is unbeaten in three since then and he has scored three goals in his past two games – including both in the 2-1 cup win.
“It’s what the captain is supposed to do,” said coach Peter Vermes.
Vancouver – Tosaint Ricketts
Vancouver has found a knack of scoring late goals this season, which Ricketts has contributed to in often being used from the bench. However, he started for the first time in 2022 in the previous league game against Charlotte and needed only two minutes to score, perhaps showing he deserves more opportunities.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Vancouver recorded a 1-0 home win over Sporting Kansas City at BC Place on April 2, its second straight home win over Sporting. Kansas City has lost only once in 10 home matches against the Whitecaps (W7 D2), including a 3-1 win in last season’s playoffs.
– Sporting Kansas City has won just one of its past nine MLS matches (D4 L4) following a 1-1 draw in San Jose on Sunday. Sporting has just three wins this season, equaling the fewest the club has ever had after 14 games of a season (also 2019, 2011, 2010, 1999).
– The Whitecaps have lost seven straight away matches (including a playoff loss at Kansas City), including their first six on the road this season. Only six teams in MLS history have lost their first seven away matches of a season, including FC Dallas last season.
– Russell’s goal against San Jose on Sunday was his 44th in the regular season for Sporting Kansas City, taking him ahead of Davy Arnaud and Josh Wolff into third on SKC’s all time regular season scoring charts. Only Preki (71) and Dom Dwyer (57) have scored more regular season goals for Kansas City.
– Ricketts’ goal in the second minute on Sunday was just Vancouver’s third first-half goal of the season, fewest in MLS. The Whitecaps are the only team in MLS who have not held a lead at halftime of a match in 2022.