KANSAS CITY, Kan. — If it feels like Sporting Kansas City barely took an offseason, you’re not entirely wrong. The team’s 2019 season-ending loss in the Western Conference Finals and the start of its Concacaf Champions League schedule sandwiched an extremely abbreviated downtime.
But the MLS season is top priority, especially for a team knocked out of the postseason the way it was last year (more on that later). Kansas City’s roster boasts a few changes from last year. But look for this team to still be on the warpath to make up for last year’s disappointment.
Visit to Los Angeles FC kicks off season
When: Sunday, March 3, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Banc of California Stadium
Broadcast: TV – ESPN, ESPN Deportes; RADIO – 810 AM (WHB), 1480 AM (KCZZ Spanish)
Live Stream: ESPN+
The buzz: Season openers are usually marked by well-rested players. But SKC will be only three days removed from its trip to Mexico to face Toluca in a CCL match. Depending on how Peter Vermes tinkers with lineups for that game – and who plays significant minutes – it wouldn’t be a surprise if SKC came out a little sluggish. Also keep an eye on Andreu Fontas on the back line, who has been impressing in the offseason.
Other key matches
May 5 vs. Atlanta United FC – Kansas City welcomes the defending MLS Cup champion, and it will be only the second time that Atlanta has played at Children’s Mercy Park. The last time these two played in Kansas City, they drew 1-1. And last season, SKC traveled south only to lose 2-0. This early-season matchup will be a good measuring stick.
Aug. 22 vs. Minnesota United FC – Former SKC defender Ike Opara had long been a fan favorite in Kansas City after six seasons there. He’ll return to the city for the first time with his new team in August. SKC fans have traditionally been welcoming to former players, and it will be fun to watch the defender on the opposite side of the field working to clear SKC’s diverse attack.
Sept. 7 at Portland Timbers FC – Last year’s second leg of the Western Conference Finals will stick around as one of the most painful SKC postseason losses in fans’ eyes. Many thought SKC could lift the MLS Cup trophy last season. Against Portland in that second leg, SKC scored early and was one half away from playing for that trophy. But Sebastian Blanco scored a stunner of a goal, sucking the life out of the stadium, and Portland went on to win 3-2 and play in Atlanta for MLS Cup. SKC will have to wait all the way until September to get a rematch. But when these two meet, it’s sure to be a wild one.
Check out the full 2018 schedule here.
Quotes & Notes
“Ever since the last game last year they kind of knew what was in front of us,” manager Peter Vermes said after last week’s 3-0 CCL victory over Toluca. “We had a big talk about it. We laid out a plan physically while they were in their offseason. They did the work and we started al little bit earlier than we normally would have. I think we had the best preseason we’ve ever had, and I commend the players for that.”
Biggest offseason moves
- You don’t have to look too hard to find SKC’s most notable absence this year. Peter Vermes traded away long-time defender Ike Opara to Minnesota for Targeted Allocation Money. Plugging the Opara-sized hole on the back line will be one of the storylines of the season.
- Striker Diego Rubio, who scored eight goals for SKC in 2018, also departed over the winter. The three-team deal that sent Rubio to Colorado brought midfielder Kelyn Rowe to Kansas City.
- Within the same one-week flurry as the Rubio/Rowe move, SKC also signed Hungarian defender Botond Barath, defender Rodney Wallace, and forward Erik Hurtado. Look for the first two to add depth on the back line, and for Hurtado to fight for a spot up top.
Forwards – Gerso Fernandes, Tyler Freeman, Erik Hurtado, Krisztian Nemeth, Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi
Midfielders – Gianluca Busio, Yohan Croizet, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez, Kelyn Rowe, Ilie Sanchez, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal
Defenders – Botond Barath, Matt Besler, Andreu Fontas, Jaylin Lindsey, Jimmy Medranda, Abdul Rwatubyaye, Seth Sinovic, Rodney Wallace, Graham Zusi
Goalkeepers – Eric Dick, Tim Melia, Adrian Zendejas
See full roster details here.