SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
CHILDREN'S MERCY PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
Sept. 13, 2016 (CONCACAF Champions League)
8 pm ET (facebook.com, delayed on UDN)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC can clinch a spot in next year's CONCACAF Champions League knockout round with a match to spare, with a victory on Tuesday night at Children's Mercy Park. Vancouver are on six points after two matches, and neither of the other two sides in the group have won yet.
Sporting, on one point after two matches, would stay alive in the group with a victory – but they need to win their last two matches (including Tuesday's) and for the Whitecaps to lose their last two, to guarantee a move out of the group for the first time since their quarterfinal appearance in the 2013-14 competition.
Tougher at home
Sporting have struggled on the road this season, going winless in their last 15 away matches across all competitions -–including a 3-0 loss at Vancouver in CCL play on Aug. 23. But they've fared far better of late at Children's Mercy Park, where they are unbeaten in their last six outings – though they did have a five-match home winning streak snapped when they conceded a late equalizer in Friday's 3-3 draw against Houston.
Sporting also are 2-0-0 against the Whitecaps this year in Kansas City, and 2-0-1 against them in three league matches.
Roster Decisions, Part 1
With his club needing only two points from their last two matches to move out of the group stage, Vancouver manager Carl Robinson might prefer to go with depth on Tuesday and not risk injuries to key players as the Whitecaps try to climb back above the red line and hold off other postseason hopefuls in MLS play.
Vancouver sit seventh in the Western Conference on 34 points, four points back of the Portland Timbers. They're just one point ahead of San Jose, with Seattle – the Whitecaps' opponent on Saturday – lurking just one point back of the Earthquakes. Both of those clubs have two games in hand on Vancouver as well.
Even a loss in Kansas City would give Vancouver a chance to clinch with a home victory over Trinidadian side Central FC on Sept. 28, so Robinson could roll the dice on Tuesday and see how things play out in MLS between now and then.
Roster Decisions, Part 2
Sporting did not field lineups full of regular starters in their first two CCL matches – in part because August was a travel nightmare for Peter Vermes' squad, who logged 13,000 miles' worth of road trips during the month. They're one point up on Portland and trying to hang onto a sixth straight playoff berth, but they need a victory on Tuesday to keep their CCL hopes alive.
Vermes never discusses lineup plans ahead of matches, but he did say late last week that the club's Friday-Tuesday-Sunday schedule, all at home does open up his roster possibilities.
"Being that it's not Saturday-Tuesday, it's better, no doubt," Vermes told reporters ahead of the Houston match. "That helps the situation."