It’s likely nobody would have expected a match between the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City six weeks into the Major League Soccer regular season to be between the first- and last-place teams in the Western Conference.
And with one of those teams still seeking its first goal in league play.
That will be the situation Sunday afternoon when the two-time defending conference champion Sounders (0-3-0) travel to Children’s Mercy Park to take on the West’s best in Sporting K.C. (4-1-1), who are averaging two goals per match.
SKC, who are unbeaten in five matches since dropping their season opener, are led by midfielder Felipe Gutierrez, a 27-year-old Chilean international, who was named the MLS Player of the Month for March and is tied for the league lead with five goals.
Gutierrez missed the last match and is listed as day-to-day with a hip injury. Even if he’s sidelined, SKC have seven players who have scored this season, tied for the most in MLS.
SKC’s defense also boasts a 262-minute scoreless streak dating to March 24. Goalkeeper Tim Melia was named the MLS Player of the Week after making a club-record 10 saves in a 2-0 victory last Sunday against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“It should give our team a lot of confidence,” Sporting K.C. captain Matt Besler said of the road victory in L.A. “It’s what we always talk about, that this team is built on a system, and it shouldn’t matter if there is one player missing, or five players missing.
“We’re solely focused on what lies ahead. We could’ve given up 10 goals against L.A. ... and our mindset wouldn’t have changed for the Seattle game. We’re focused on putting in a good performance as a team.”
That’s not good news for the offensively challenged Sounders, who found out Thursday that forward Clint Dempsey will be suspended an additional match for a red card he received March 18 against FC Dallas.
“We will miss Clint, I didn’t think he deserved a red card ... and I don’t think it should have been two (matches),” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We’re just trying to push past it. I don’t agree with it. At this point in time, we have to focus on Sporting K.C.”
—Field Level Media