Courtesy of Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City (3-9-4, 13 points) reaches the mid point of the 2022 MLS regular season with match 17 of 34 set for this Sunday at Nashville SC (6-4-5, 23 points). Sunday’s match will kick off at 5:25 p.m. CT from GEODIS Park, the nation’s newest and largest soccer-specific stadium which opened last month with a capacity crowd of 30,109, as Sporting plays away to Nashville SC for the first time.
The Western Conference clash will be nationally televised on FS1 and FOX Deportes with Sporting play-by-play voice Nate Bukaty on the FS1 call. Local radio coverage will also air on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM. In addition,Sporting KC pub partnersacross the Midwest will be showing the match including an enhanced watch party at International Tap House (403 E. 18th St., Kansas City, MO), featuring food and drink specials as well as Sporting KC ticket giveaways.
Both clubs will be wearing jerseys featuring Juneteenth-inspired numbers as part of a league-wide initiative in partnership with Black Players for Change. The game-worn and player-signed jerseys, presented in commemorative boxes, will be available to fans via an online auction from June 20 – July 5 and proceeds from the auction will benefit Kansas City G.I.F.T. among other organizations supporting and uplifting black communities.
After three straight home matches, Sporting returns to the road in the Music City as the club embarks on a stretch of the schedule which features five of the team’s next six MLS matches away from home. Sporting has struggled on the road this season (0-6-2) – conceding a league-high 20 goals in road matches – and will be looking to snap a 10-game road winless streak with the team’s first away win since October 2021.
Meanwhile, Nashville SC is unbeaten in 25 consecutive home matches across all competitions. The team has just two losses in 35 competitive home matches (16-2-17) since debuting in Major League Soccer as an expansion club in 2020, including a 2-0-3 record in their new home at GEODIS Park.
Since the start of 2021, Nashville’s eight regular season losses are the fewest in MLS. The team’s recipe for success has been a stout defense – anchored by U.S. Men’s National Team centerback Walker Zimmerman, who was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2020 and 2021, and goalkeeper Joe Willis, who leads MLS in clean sheets since the start of 2020 – and a dynamic attack led by Hany Mukhtar. The 27-year-old German playmaker not only leads the team with six goals and five assists this year but also leads MLS with 39 combined regular season goals (22) and assists (17) since the start of last season.
After a scoreless draw with San Jose last weekend that snapped a 19-match home scoring streak, Nashville enters Sunday on a five-match unbeaten run (3-0-2) in all competitions. Conversely, Sporting is coming off back-to-back losses. Manager Peter Vermes’ squad most recently suffered a 2-1 setback to reigning MLS Supporters’ Shield winners New England in a match that saw Sporting concede in the 87th minute after playing a man down for nearly all of the second half.
Captain Johnny Russell scored on a sensational free kick in the defeat for his fourth goal in his past four games and now leads the team with seven goals across all competitions this season. The 32-year-old Scottish winger has 76 combined regular season goals (45) and assists (31) since arriving in MLS in 2018 – third most in MLS over that span – and his five direct free kick goals since the start of 2019 are second best in MLS.
Sporting’s attack – which ranks last in the league in goals per game – will be bolstered by the return of Daniel Salloi (Hungary) and Marinos Tzionis (Cyprus) from international duty. Salloi’s next start will be his 100th for Sporting in MLS competitions and could come on Sunday in a match-up with Mukhtar as the 2021 MLS MVP finalists go head-to-head.
Salloi is one of the top performing Homegrown Players in Major League Soccer, coming through the Sporting KC Academy along with midfielders Cam Duke and Felipe Hernandez, who are tied for the team lead with three assists this season. Hernandez, 24, was raised in the Nashville area before joining the Sporting KC Academy at age 15 in 2014.
Sporting Kansas City and Nashville SC will meet for the second time this season on Sunday as each team also prepares for the upcoming quarterfinal round of the U.S. Open Cup. Sporting prevailed in the inaugural match-up between the two sides in October 2020, however Nashville rallied for a come-from-behind victory on April 9, 2022 as Dave Romney and former Sporting KC striker C.J. Sapong scored second-half goals to even the series at one win apiece.
Remi Walter scored the game’s opening goal in the previous encounter and had played every minute for Sporting this season — leading the league in distance covered — before exiting with an ankle injury in the first half last weekend. The 27-year-old Frenchman is questionable for Sunday along with midfielder Jake Davis (adductor) and Nikola Vujnovic (calf), while Sporting will be without Ozzie Cisneros (hamstring), Gadi Kinda (knee), Alan Pulido (knee) and Uri Rosell (suspension).
Three Nashville SC players will be sidelined with injury, including former Sporting KC forward Teal Bunbury (knee), and Zimmerman is questionable with a foot injury sustained with the U.S. Men’s National Team during the international window. Midfielder Anibal Godoy, who started three matches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, has returned to the club after playing for Panama in the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League group stage.
Following Sunday’s match, The Final Whistle postgame show will air live on Sports Radio 810 WHB with hosts Chad Reynolds and Dave Borchardt. Listeners can tune in via the Sporting KC mobile app or online at 810WHB.com.