September 7, 2018 / 5:22 AM / 8 months ago

Dwyer return in focus as Orlando City visits SKC

Dom Dwyer used to be one of the main scoring threats for Sporting Kansas City.

He looks to remind his former club of his goal-scoring abilities on Saturday.

The 28-year-old forward returns as a visiting player for the first time since being traded 13-plus months ago when he leads Orlando City SC against Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Dwyer scored 57 goals in 4 1/2 seasons for Sporting KC before being dealt last year for $1.6 million in allocation money.

He has been a potent force for Orlando City by finding the back of the net a team-leading 12 times. But the Lions (7-16-3, 24 points) are just 1-14-2 over their last 17 matches, have allowed a league-worst 61 goals and are tied for last place in the Eastern Conference — 12 points behind the Montreal Impact, the team currently in possession of the final playoff spot.

“It’s important for us to get some points right now, so of course I’m very excited to go back to Kansas,” Dwyer told reporters. “It’ll be a very fine atmosphere and a place I’m very familiar with. I’m just very excited, looking forward to it.”

The contest rates as highly important for Sporting KC (13-7-6, 45 points), who stand in third place in the Western Conference behind FC Dallas (49 points) and Los Angeles FC (46). Fourth-place Real Salt Lake are one point behind.

Sporting KC were playing well with a four-game winning streak — all by shutouts — before they were halted with last Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders.

Now the challenge is searching for offense with the club’s top three goal scorers called up for international duty. Johnny Russell (eight goals) is with the Scotland national team, Diego Rubio (eight) was recalled by Chile and Daniel Salloi (seven) is with Hungary.

Red-hot goalkeeper Tim Melia will again be heavily relied upon. Melia has a 1.27 goals-against average and a league-leading 11 shutouts.

Sporting KC signed four of their key players to multi-year extensions earlier this week. The club inked defenders Matt Besler (two-year extension through 2020) and Graham Zusi (three years, 2021) as well as midfielders Roger Espinoza (two years, 2020) and Ilie Sanchez (three, 2021).

“It’s always been my prerogative that we were going to create a core group and try to keep that group of guys together,” SKC coach Peter Vermes told reporters. “Then what you do is you never really get too far away from the center. ... I think the fact that we have had consistent players has been a big help to our model of play and the byproduct of that is results.”

—Field Level Media

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