By Nate Bukaty
Sporting Kansas City look to put a stop to a three-match losing streak as they wrap up a three-game road swing on Wednesday night in Vancouver. This could stand to be a pivotal Western Conference matchup, even if it is early in the season, as just two points separate these teams in the standings. In fact, Sporting and Vancouver find themselves on each side of the red line, which separates the playoff teams from the non playoff teams. A 4th straight loss for SKC would put them on the wrong side of the playoff picture.
With that in mind, here are three keys to a victory for Sporting Kansas City against the White Caps.
1) Will you Convert?
In order to score goals, teams must create chances. But chances mean little, if they aren’t converted. Both of these teams have had their issues converting chances into goals of late. In fact, Sporting KC have actually outshot their opponents in each of the three games during this losing streak. That’s only happened two other times in franchise history. Meanwhile, the White Caps rank just 17th in the league in shot attempts, so they’re not exactly creating a boatload of chances. But they do have some key players who are failing to cash in on a healthy amount of opportunities. Vancouver striker Octavio Rivero is the only player in MLS with at least 15 shot attempts and 10 shots on goal with zero goals to show for it. Will either side find their goal scoring form in this one? It will be a difficult task, considering that this match will feature two of the best goalkeepers in MLS. Tim Melia is tied for the MLS lead with 3 clean sheets, and he’s tied for second in save percentage. Meanwhile David Ousted leads MLS with 34 saves, and he’s coming off an heroic performance in keeping a clean sheet against FC Dallas last weekend.
2) Keep dominating this team, this country, this region:
Considering the history, there might not be a better place for Sporting to stop a losing streak than a Canadian team in the Cascadia region. Sporting Kansas City have historically faired very well against Vancouver, going 5-1-2 against the Whitecaps all time. Their only loss in the series came back in August of 2014. And SKC love playing in Cascadia, having won 5 straight regular season matches in the region that includes Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. That’s the longest winning streak in Cascadia by any club in MLS history. Meanwhile, Sporting have also enjoyed an unparalleled amount of success against teams from north of the border. Their 25 victories against Canadian opponents are more than any MLS team.
3) Avoid set pieces and penalties:
The Vancouver Whitecaps have scored exactly one goal through the run of play in 206. That’s in eight games. One goal. Conversely, the Whitecaps have scored four goals on penalties, which are twice as many as any other team in the league. And they’ve found the back of the net three times off of set pieces, which is tied for second most in the league. Sounds simple, but if Sporting can keep from giving away fouls in dangerous areas, they stand a great chance of keeping another clean sheet in Vancouver.
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