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Playoff outsiders square off as Vancouver visits KC

(Image: Twitter/@sportingkc)

Two clubs below the red line in MLS’s Western Conference will try to get healthy against each other as Sporting Kansas City (2-4-4, 10 points) host the Vancouver Whitecaps FC (3-6-3, 12 points) Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park.

Sporting currently occupy 11th place in the West, three points below the playoff line, but with at least one game in hand on every team but one ahead of them in the standings. Vancouver sits a point below the seventh and final playoff spot.

Sporting will be trying to snap a six-match winless streak in MLS play. SKC have not won since March 30, when they defeated Montreal 7-1. Injuries have been the main culprit as the club traveled just 15 players in a 1-0 defeat at D.C. United last Sunday. Veterans Matt Besler (hamstring), Andreu Fontas (calf), Graham Zusi (oblique), Roger Espinoza (knee) and Gerso Fernandes (wrist) are among those who have missed action.

“It gets worse before it gets better,” manager Peter Vermes recently told the media. “Guys keep getting injured. And the guys who are coming back aren’t fully 90-minutes fit.”

While Sporting KC are struggling to find healthy bodies, Vancouver enters the weekend on short rest. The Whitecaps took a 1-0 home loss to Atlanta United FC on Wednesday night, conceding a first-half penalty kick to Josef Martinez. The shutout loss continued Vancouver’s offensive struggles, as the club ranks second-to-last in MLS with 0.92 goals per game. Forward Fredy Montero is the lone Whitecaps player with three goals this season.

Saturday will mark the return for first-year Vancouver manager Marc Dos Santos. In 2016, he was the first head coach for the Swope Park Rangers, the USL Championship affiliate of Sporting Kansas City. He knows that SKC’s depleted squad will still present a challenge.

“I know them very well,” Dos Santos told reporters. “In Kansas City, it’s never the right time. They’re a very strong team (at) home. It’s very special to play there. It’s going to be a very hard game.”

REUTERS/Field Level Media

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