Diego Rubio - Sporting Kansas City - celebrates his equalizer vs. Colorado
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Sporting KC happy to have influential Diego Rubio available vs. Timbers

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The second leg of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Championship will see Sporting KC get an instant boost in attack.

Forward Diego Rubio will be back, following a yellow card suspension served during the 0-0 draw against the Portland Timbers on Sunday. 

The in-form striker is their leading goal-scorer among those who have played up top for Sporting KC this season. Rubio only started nine games for the club, but appeared in 20 matches in league play. With eight goals and six assists in just 785 minutes, plus two goals already in the postseason this year, Rubio has been the most influential player at his position for Sporting in 2018, and Peter Vermes is excited to get him back.

“Diego has been very important to the team in all kinds of scenarios,” Vermes said in a press conference on Tuesday. “Starting, off the bench, coming in the last few minutes of a game, starting the second half, he’s been ready for all of them.”

Vermes wasn’t ready to say whether or not he’d plug Rubio as a starter in the second leg on Thursday night (9:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN2, TVAS2), but was sure he’d play an important role in the game.

As always, the manager was keen to point out though that Rubio, along with the rest of the forwards, have a defensive responsibility in Sporting's system.

“I think in the system that we play, the forward is an important aspect of our buildup,” Vermes said. “It’s also an important aspect as he’s the first line of defense for us as well. So he has a big responsibility as do the others who play in that position.”

In March, after being down 2-0 against the Colorado Rapids, on the road, it was Rubio’s goal late in stoppage time that earned a draw. It was then Rubio’s goal that evened the match during Sporting’s comeback 3-2 win over the Houston Dynamo in June. And it was Rubio’s goal again when Sporting KC needed a gritty performance in Houston to break them out of a bad run of form that broke them out of their summer swoon.

After proving himself in 2018, Vermes believes that there is confidence in Rubio up top.

“He’s had a huge impact on our results,” Vermes said. “Also on his teammates, there is no doubt in my mind that they have the confidence in him when he’s on the field.”