MLS: Sporting Kansas City look to stifle Whitecaps’ playoff push

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The Vancouver Whitecaps look to keep their Western Conference playoff hopes alive when they host second-place Sporting Kansas City on Sunday evening.

The eighth-place Whitecaps (9-9-10, 37 points) entered the weekend one point outside the playoff line in the West, but also only two back of fifth-place Real Salt Lake in a tightly contested race.

They’ve won four games, drawn two and lost two under interim manager Vanni Sartini after Marc Dos Santos was let go in August.

The last defeat was a hefty 4-1 dissection at West-leading Seattle last weekend that came even as the Sounders were the team more impacted by international call-ups.

But the club’s overall form plus the summer addition of playmaking midfielder Ryan Gauld has Sartini relishing another shot at one of the West’s best.

“We know that it’s going to be really hard,” Sartini said. “In my opinion, they’re one of the best teams in the league. But we’re up for the challenge.”

Kansas City (15-6-7, 52 points) makes the trip to Vancouver having started the weekend five points back of the Sounders and one ahead of the third-place Colorado Rapids.

Behind leading scorer Daniel Salloi’s 16 goals and 10 more from a surging Johnny Russell, Sporting KC are arguably the league’s most in-form attacking team.

They’ve scored 14 goals while winning four of their last five, including a comfortable 4-2 victory over the Houston Dynamo in their last match back on Oct. 3.

The biggest obstacle to catching Seattle or staving off Colorado may be the tilt of the schedule, which sees Sporting playing four of the last six on the road.

Kansas City easily defeated Vancouver 3-0 at home back in May. But SKC manager Peter Vermes believes Sunday’s opponent is a transformed one.

“You can see there’s a definite jump in their step as a team, playing with a lot of energy and intensity in the game,” Vermes said.

–Field Level Media

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