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Minnesota United vs. Sporting Kansas City | 2017 MLS Match Preview

Minnesota United vs. Sporting Kansas City
2017 MLS Regular Season
TCF Bank Stadium – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sunday, May 7 | 1:30 pm ET
WATCH: FS1 and Fox Deportes in the US; MLS LIVE in Canada

Is there a new MLS rivalry brewing along Interstate 35? Perhaps, but better to leave those details to the fans and players who'll take part in the first-ever (and subsequent) matches between Minnesota United and Sporting Kansas City, two clubs connected by their Midwestern roots and proximity to the asphalt artery that runs north-south between the two up-and-coming cities.

For now, Minnesota looks south with envy at a Sporting KC team sitting atop the Western Conference standings and boasting the stingiest defense in MLS. Sporting KC, meanwhile, sees opportunity in their trip to the Twin Cities. There are points to be had at TCF Bank Stadium, as San Jose proved last week, while the Loons figure out their identity following a rough start.

Minnesota United

First, they were terrible. Then, they were sorta good. Now, Minnesota are somewhere in between, no longer a defensive dumpster fire but also trying to rediscover the attacking punch that made them fun to watch.

Sporting KC will be a real test for Adrian Heath's men, and the Loons manager is intimately familiar with what striker Dom Dwyer can do to a backline considering the Englishmen hooked up to help Orlando win a USL title years ago now. Can center backs Francisco Calvo and Brent Kallman keep Benny Feilhaber and Dwyer, who has three goals in his last two games, from running rampant? It's a tall task, but if they're going to grab a result at home, it's basically a requirement because...

Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic and Graham Zusi won't allow the likes of Kevin Molino, Miguel Ibarra, Johan Venegas and Christian Ramirez any room to breathe. Sporting have allowed three goals in nine games, and it will take some inspired play in the final third for Minnesota to add to that total.

  • Suspensions: None
  • Int’l Duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT – M - Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury); QUESTIONABLE – M - Rasmus Schuller (hip injury)

Projected starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Bobby Shuttleworth – Marc Burch, Francisco Calvo, Brent Kallman, Jerome Thiesson – Sam Cronin, Ibson – Kevin Molino, Johan Venegas, Miguel Ibarra – Christian Ramirez

Notes: Kevin Molino has attempted 38 dribbles so far this season, the third-most in the league. He has been successful on just 26.3 percent of those attempts however, the fourth-worst of any player with at least 20 dribbles attempted.

Sporting Kansas City

Are Sporting the best team in MLS? They've certainly made a case for themselves through nine matches, allowing just three goals and losing only once.

The attack was a question mark at first, with Dwyer struggling to score and Feilhaber returning from injury. But they've won 3-0 and 2-0 in the past week to assuage any doubts. It's not perfect on that front, however, as Peter Vermes is still looking for more goal-dangerous moments from his wingers.

In the back, their pace is historic and should come as no surprise. Opara and Besler are one of, if not the, best center-back tandems in MLS, Sinovic has been doing the solid-but-unspectacular thing for years and the Zusi-to-right back experiment isn't even a topic of conversation anymore (it worked).

The big question for Vermes is whether to rotate his squad after a midweek win at home. If he does, will Sporting get enough from their depth to grab a valuable road result?

  • Suspensions: None
  • Int’l Duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT – FW Diego Rubio (torn ACL)

Projected starting lineup (4-3-3, right to left): Tim Melia – Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic – Roger Espinoza, Ilie, Benny Feilhaber – Gerso, Dom Dwyer, Jimmy Medranda

Notes: Ike Opara has played 720 minutes so far this season, more than he played in the 2014 and 2015 regular seasons combined (1,542 minutes in 2016).

All-Time Series

This is the first-ever MLS match between Minnesota United and Sporting Kansas City.

Referees

Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant Referees: Apolinar Mariscal (bench), Kermit Quisenberry (far)
Fourth Official: Hilario Grajeda