Fri, 22 Jan 2021

History not on Loons' side entering semifinal vs. SKC

Field Level Media
02 Dec 2020, 15:55 GMT+10

It's been dubbed "the friendliest rivalry in sports," but with all that's at stake in Thursday's match, don't expect players or coaches to be exchanging recipes or making postmatch dinner plans.

Top-seeded Sporting Kansas City will host fourth-seeded Minnesota United in the Western Conference semifinals at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. Minnesota has never won at the stadium, going 0-6-0 in all competition, with five of those games coming in MLS play.

The winner advances to the conference final on Monday to meet the second-seeded Seattle Sounders, who edged FC Dallas 1-0 on Tuesday.

"It's always been my opinion that there's no such thing as a 'friendly,'" Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. "At the end of the day, these guys are all professionals. The staffs are as well. We have a tremendous amount of respect for their team, their club and their staff.

"But it's a playoff game. We want to win."

Vermes said Monday that he expects nearly all of his players to be available, although he stopped short of saying that striker Alan Pulido would also be on the pitch following an injury-marred season.

"You don't replace (Pulido)," he said. "He's a special player within our team. This is the important time. This is what you fight all year long to get to. I'm always going to be cautious when making the decision as to whether (any player) is part of the team. I don't ever want to put a player in a position where he is not prepared to go in and play."

The Loons breezed to a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids in their first-round playoff match, led by two goals by Kevin Molino. Sporting, meanwhile, had to go to penalty kicks to top the San Jose Earthquakes after a 3-3 draw.

Minnesota will be riding a nine-game unbeaten string (5-0-4) coming into the match, which Vermes says makes the Loons the favorite. Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath is amused by that.

"Well, I get along really well with Peter, so I'll have to ask him the question on what criteria he's (using)," Heath said. "Is it the fact they won the West and are on top of the league and rarely get beat that we are the favorites? We haven't won a game there."

--Field Level Media

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