May 8, 2018 / 9:57 PM / in 8 months

Sporting KC visits Atlanta in battle of conference leaders

Coach Peter Vermes recorded his 150th MLS win and received a contract extension this week that will keep him running Sporting Kansas City until 2023.

Vermes hopes to celebrate by beating the club with the best record in the league — Atlanta United.

Sporting Kansas City heads to Atlanta on Wednesday to take on the United in a showdown between two first-place teams in their respective conferences at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The United stretched their unbeaten streak to eight games with a 2-1 road win over the Chicago Fire on Sunday. Atlanta (7-1-1, 22 points) leads MLS in goals with 23 and hasn’t lost since the season opener against the Houston Dynamo.

Prized offseason acquisition Ezequiel Barco scored his first goal in the win over the Fire, and striker Josef Martinez delivered the game-winner with his MLS-leading seventh goal.

“We know we are in good form right now,” United captain Michael Parkhurst told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We would like to keep it going for as long as possible. We know we aren’t going undefeated the rest of the season. It’s not going to happen ... likely.

“We want to for sure win all of our home games and Wednesday is another good opportunity for us.”

Sporting KC (6-2-2) sits atop the table in the Western Conference with 20 points. Kansas City is coming off a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. Daniel Salloi scored in the 16th minute, and keeper Tim Melia recorded a clean sheet, aided by a solid effort from Sporting’s backline. Colorado managed just two shots on frame, both covered up by Melia.

“I think that we’re evolving,” Vermes told reporters after the win over the Rapids. “I also think that we’re getting challenged early on in the season with different tactical packages that teams are putting together. It’s good because it’s making us see things that as a season progresses, we’ll be even more ready for.”

Atlanta enters Wednesday’s game with injury issues on defense. Defender Franco Escobar is considered questionable after injuring his throat in a collision with goalkeeper Brad Guzan against Chicago.

—Field Level Media

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