Whitecaps FC-Sporting Kansas City Preview

National Sports

Sporting Kansas City head into the playoffs on the back of a three-game losing streak, but Peter Vermes has no concerns over his side’s form.

Kansas City finished third in the Western Conference, and will face the Vancouver Whitecaps – who placed sixth – in their Round One match on Saturday.

Vermes’ team lost away games to Minnesota United and Austin FC before going down 1-0 at home to Real Salt Lake in their final regular-season match, but the coach says the playoffs are a chance to start afresh.

“The way I look at it, everything else that happened prior to this is over, it’s done. You’ve either been fortunate enough to qualify for the playoffs or you haven’t,” he said.

“We have, and my experience has been over the years that the playoffs take on a completely difference face. It’s incredibly intense, everybody has to be ready for the speed and the physicality of the games.

“I actually think we played really well in our last game against Salt Lake, I think we played really well in all three games. Sometimes things don’t go your way but I think our team is in a good place.”

Vancouver are unbeaten in their last six games. They looked unlikely candidates for a playoff place when Marc Dos Santos was dismissed halfway through the season.

Vanni Sartini has got them over the line, though has been helped by the brilliant Brian White, who has scored 12 goals since his arrival from New York Red Bulls.

“I think pretty much what you see is what you get, even behind closed doors,” White said of Sartini.

“He’s very exuberant, he’s very excited and he’s really fun to play for because you see the energy, the emotion he puts into it. He puts in belief and passion, so it really makes it easy for guys to go out and give their all for him.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sporting Kansas City – Johnny Russell

Johnny Russell has contributed to a goal in each of his last 10 appearances. Only four players (Josef Martínez, Sebastian Giovinco, Roy Lassiter, Ronald Cerritos) had longer streaks within a single season in MLS history (including playoffs).

Vancouver Whitecaps – Brian White

White contributed to at least one goal in seven of his last eight matches this season, totaling six goals and four assists in that time. White’s 10 goal contributions are tied for the most by any player since the beginning of October (with Los Angeles FC’s Cristian Arango).

KEY OPTA FACTS

·Vancouver has managed just one win in nine visits to Kansas City in MLS play (D2 L6), a 1-0 victory in September 2017. Sporting has held the Whitecaps to just two goals in the last five meetings at Children’s Mercy Park dating back to August 2016, while scoring 12 goals of their own in that span.

·This will be the first playoff meeting between Sporting Kansas City and Vancouver, though they did meet in the quarterfinal of MLS is Back last year, with Sporting going through on penalties. The Whitecaps will be the 17th different postseason opponent for Sporting Kansas City, more than any other team in MLS history.

·After not losing consecutive matches for over a year, Sporting Kansas City enters the playoffs with three straight defeats. The three previous times Sporting lost its last regular season match before the playoffs, it was eliminated in its first postseason tie (1997, 2014, 2017).

·Vancouver ended a three-season playoff drought this year, reaching the postseason for the first time since 2017. After losing five straight matches from May 12 to June 23, the Whitecaps lost only three of its final 25 regular season matches (W10 D12).

·Only conference top seeds New England (50) and Colorado (45) took more points than the Whitecaps (42) from June 26 through the end of the season.

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