Welcome to your match thread for a Friday night match-up between Orlando City (0-0-1, 1 point) and Sporting Kansas City (1-0-0, 3 points) at Children’s Mercy Park. It is the lone meeting of the two sides scheduled for 2021 and the second consecutive year the Lions have traveled to Kansas for this fixture because...reasons. It’s one of only two games against Western Conference opposition scheduled this season, with the other being a home match vs. San Jose.
The Lions enter tonight two points off the top of the Eastern Conference lead. Sporting is tied atop the West — the same spot it occupied at the end of the 2020 regular season.
Orlando City has won the last two meetings and is 3-2-1 (W-L-D) in the all-time series and 1-2-0 on the road. The most recent meeting resulted in the Lions’ first ever away victory in the series, a 2-1 Orlando City win on Sept. 23, 2020. Benji Michel and Tesho Akindele gave a heavily rotated Orlando side the lead and the Lions held on after a Johnny Russell goal to get the win.
In 2019, this fixture took place in Orlando and finished as a 1-0 Orlando City win at Exploria Stadium on Aug. 14. Akindele scored the game’s only goal off a Carlos Ascues pass, although both teams squandered offensive opportunities in the match.
The 2018 meeting finished with a 1-0 SKC victory at Children’s Mercy Park on Sept. 8. Felipe Gutierrez provided the only goal in Dom Dwyer’s return to Kansas City. It was a rough outing for Dwyer, who missed two golden opportunities to score.
Sporting was the first MLS team to come into Exploria Stadium (then known as Orlando City Stadium) and take any points in a 2-2 draw in 2017. Latif Blessing scored both SKC goals in the first non-win for the Lions in their new stadium. That non-win happened because the assistant referee ruled that Will Johnson’s corner kick service curled over the end line in the air before Jose Aja had headed it home for an apparent go-ahead goal. Cyle Larin and Kaká scored Orlando’s goals that counted.
In 2016, the Lions went into Children’s Mercy Park and gave up an incredible 34 shots en route to a 2-1 loss in Kansas City. With that many shots, it was a minor miracle to escape without a more lopsided score line. At the time, Sporting put up the third-most shots ever in a regular-season MLS game and the most since 1998. David Mateos nodded in off Jimmy Medranda for an own goal to get the Lions on the board with an improbable lead. Joe Bendik made 10 saves but conceded goals to Dwyer (74’) and Jacob Peterson (79’) five minutes apart, as SKC came from behind to win.
The Lions captured the first meeting, 3-1 at home on Sept. 13, 2015. That win snapped a seven-game winless skid at the time and kicked off a club record five-game winning streak. Adrian Winter started the party with a third-minute goal and added another in the 72nd to seal it. After Krisztian Nemeth had equalized in the 59th, Bryan Rochez put Orlando back on top for good with his first MLS goal in the 66th minute.
The Lions are coming off a hard-fought 0-0 defensive struggle against Atlanta United. Neither defense allowed much room in the attacking third but Orlando fashioned the game’s best chances. Both Pedro Gallese and Brad Guzan finished with three saves.
Sporting Kansas City came from behind to edge the New York Red Bulls last weekend, 2-1. Caden Clark put the Red Bulls on the board first, but a penalty by Gadi Kinda and a goal by Daniel Salloi a minute later turned the game on its head.
Kinda, Salloi, Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton, and Gianluca Busio present all kinds of challenges for any defense in Sporting’s usual 4-3-3 alignment. The Lions must be sound defensively to hold back a team that is equally good at attacking up the middle or from the wings. As is usual with Peter Vermes’ Sporting Kansas City sides, it will be difficult to beat them on the road. They are generally well organized and generate plenty of shots, and Tim Melia gives them one of the league’s best shot stoppers in net. Adding some extra spice from the SKC side is that this will be Vermes’ 600th game combined as player and manager.
“Kansas City is a team who brings a lot of intensity,” Oscar Pareja said at his pre-match press conference. “We know them. It’s a team that has kept the model and the idea of their game, their patterns too. We can tell that Kansas City has been very solid in that aspect. I think last year when we went to Kansas we found that intensity. The 4-3-3 is very constant. The movement of their midfielders and their forwards especially is very noticeable. We’ll try to prepare our way.”
The Lions are without Joao Moutinho, Alexandre Pato, David Loera and Uri Rosell — all with undisclosed lower body injuries (because there are only two kinds of injuries in Orlando, lower and upper body, apparently). Pato is the only one listed as out, and the others as questionable, but Pareja indicated the others wouldn’t necessarily be back this week. Center back Robin Jansson is nearing a return after being back in training this week, but he may sit this one out as well, as the team will not want to rush back an important player. I would expect a similar lineup that played in the second half against Atlanta, minus Pato. Pareja may turn to the veteran Akindele to play up top, as the Canadian has had success in this fixture in the past. However, he could also turn to Benji Michel or Matheus Aias up top.
For Sporting Kansas City, injured guys seem to be getting back on the field but goalkeeper Tim Melia (chest) is out tonight. With Kendall McIntosh (eye) and Brooks Thompson (lower body) also out, John Pulskamp will likely get the start between the sticks. Defenders Graham Zusi (foot) and Amadou Dia (hamstring) are also out.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report has more information about Sporting with the help from Cody Bradley of SB Nation’s Kansas City blog, The Blue Testament.
- This week's PawedCast features our key match-ups and predictions for the game and our interview with The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio on the mechanics and market for a Daryl Dike sale.
Orlando City (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Midfielders: Andres Perea, Junior Urso, Sebas Mendez, Benji Michel.
Forwards: Nani, Tesho Akindele.
Bench: Brandon Austin, Rio Hope-Gund, Michael Halliday, Joao Moutinho, Joey DeZart, Jordan Bender, Alexander Alvarado, Matheus Aias, Chris Mueller.
Sporting Kansas City (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: John Pulskamp.
Defenders: Luis Martins, Andreu Fontas, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Jaylin Lindsey.
Midfielders: Roger Espinoza, Remi Walter, Gadi Kinda.
Forwards: Gianluca Busio, Daniel Salloi, Khiry Shelton.
Bench: Kendall McIntosh, Roberto Puncec, Kaveh Rad, Cameron Duke, Felipe Hernandez, Grayson Barber, Wilson Harris, Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell.
Ref: Joseph Dickerson.
AR1: Kyle Atkins.
AR2: Kathryn Nesbitt.
4th: Brandon Stevis.
VAR: Chris Penso.
AVAR: Peter Balciunas.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 (kickoff set for 7:55) p.m. ET.
Venue: Children’s Mercy Park — Kansas City, KN.
TV: FOX Sports 1.
Radio: 96.9 FM The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM (Spanish), 810 AM.
Streaming: FOX Sports GO.
Enjoy the match. Go City!