Major League Soccer

Sporting Kansas City-Sounders FC Preview

The shorthanded Seattle Sounders should head into a top-of-the-table clash with their key men relatively fresh after fielding a youthful team at Austin FC in midweek.

Seattle, who lead the Western Conference, play second-placed Sporting Kansas City at Lumen Field on Sunday.

Brian Schmetzer will likely revert to a more senior line-up, but the coach was delighted from what he saw against Austin in the first MLS XI ever to feature five teenagers.

Fifteen-year-old Obed Vargas, the third-youngest player in league history, was among the starters as the Sounders showed their culture of success extends beyond their senior stars - many of whom remain out of action due to injury or international duty.

"The message to the group was, 'We didn't come down here to play a bunch of young kids, to make it a good story'," Schmetzer said.

"That was never our intention. Our intention and the winning culture of this club is, 'I don't care who we put out on the field'.

"The culture of what this club is about is about winning. Those young kids did a great job of demonstrating to all of you that that's what they believe. Those kids believed they could win."

Victory opened up a five-point gap to Sporting KC, as they could only draw with the San Jose Earthquakes while missing several of their own key men.

Coach Peter Vermes, who could not watch from the touchline as he isolates due to health and safety protocols, said of the Sounders: "They're the best team in the league.

"For both of us, it's a challenge. We don't have all of our players. But you keep trying to grind through an MLS season and make the playoffs. That's what we're trying to do."

Seattle Sounders - Raul Ruidiaz

Seattle may have named five teenagers in their XI, but it was Ruidiaz's name on everyone's lips come full-time. The Peru forward's stunning long-range strike - one of the goals of the season - maintained his MVP campaign and moved him clear in the Golden Boot race.

Sporting Kansas City - Daniel Salloi

Only three goals behind Ruidiaz and third in the standings is Salloi, who looks a different player to the striker who netted only once in 28 games in his previous full MLS season in 2019. Seven of those strikes have come in Sporting KC's past nine matches.

- Sporting Kansas City won both matches against Seattle in 2019, the last time the sides met. SKC have five wins over Seattle since the start of the 2016 season (D1 L3, including playoffs); only Portland (eight) have defeated the Sounders more in that time.

- The Sounders have lost just one of their past 29 home matches (W21 D7, including playoffs) since losing to Sporting Kansas City at home in August 2019. The Sounders are unbeaten in a league-best 17 straight home matches, including playoffs, dating back to September 2020.

- Sporting Kansas City came from behind to draw 1-1 with San Jose on Wednesday. Sporting KC have now gained 17 points from losing positions this season, more than twice as many as any other team (Nashville SC - eight).

- Ruidiaz scored his league-leading 11th goal in Seattle's 1-0 win over Austin on Thursday. The goal was scored from 40.9 yards (37.4 metres), the longest in MLS this season and the first goal outside the box by Ruidiaz in 2021.

- Salloi has scored seven goals in his past nine matches, including the equalizer in SKC's 1-1 draw with San Jose on Wednesday. No player has scored more goals than Salloi since that run began in mid-May.

Updated July 23, 2021

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