Sporting Kansas City will look to improve its 9-3-3 record all-time in inaugural meetings against MLS expansion clubs, beginning with the dawn of the MLS expansion era in 2005, as they travel to FC Cincinnati (2-2-1, 7 points) Sunday afternoon.
Sporting KC (2-1-1, 7 points) likely will be looking for redemption following a 5-0 defeat to Mexican giant CF Monterey in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals Thursday night. Sporting will get a chance for revenge next Thursday, but MLS action returns first.
Sporting enter Sunday on the heels of two dissimilar results in separate competitions. A record-breaking 7-1 league win over the Montreal Impact last Saturday at Children's Mercy Park preceded the humbling loss at CF Monterrey.
The match against Montreal saw Krisztian Nemeth record a hat-trick, Johnny Russell strike twice and Gerso Fernandes record two assists. Manager Peter Vermes' men are unbeaten in three straight regular season matches since falling at first-place LAFC on March 3 on an LAFC goal in stoppage time.
Vermes knows that FC Cincinnati won't be a pushover.
"They've proven from game to game that they're getting more organized," Vermes said. "It's hard when you're starting from ground zero and you're trying to implement your ideas. They've gotten off to a good start. They have a great crowd. It's going to be a difficult match for so many reasons."
Nemeth's four goals are tied for second in MLS, behind only Carlos Vela of LAFC. Johnny Russell has added three goals for SKC. Roger Espinosa, Russell and Fernandes each have recorded two assists, one out of the league lead.
Since suffering a 4-1 road loss at Seattle Sounders FC in its MLS debut, FC Cincinnati have rebounded to earn seven points in its last four games. That stretch includes a 3-0 home win over the Portland Timbers on March 17 and a 2-0 triumph at New England Revolution a week later.
Seven different players have accounted for the club's seven goals in 2019, with Kekuta Manneh, Roland Lamah, Kenny Saief and Kendall Waston among the scorers.
"I think this is why our ownership group invested all this money, to bring teams like Sporting Kansas City into Cincinnati, where we get to embrace the challenge," head coach Alan Koch said. "Our fans get to see what a quality team like Kansas City are like. We don't have to look too far back to see what quality they are. We saw what they did to Montreal. We're excited to embrace the challenge."
FC Cincinnati's first defeat at Nippert Stadium came last Saturday against the Philadelphia Union. Cincinnati mustered just five shot attempts in a heavy rain. Waston was sidelined for the match with a calf injury but figures to return to the lineup against Sporting, while Cincinnati striker Fanendo Adi will likely miss out Sunday after violating the league's substance-abuse policy earlier this week.
Sunday will be the second match in a streak of six of seven regular season matches against Eastern Conference opponents for SKC. The stretch continues a week from Sunday when Sporting hosts reigning Supporters' Shield champion New York Red Bulls in a rematch of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final. After a trip to the San Jose Earthquakes on April 20, Sporting will meet New England, MLS Cup holders Atlanta United FC and D.C. United in consecutive matchdays from April 27 to May 12.