Sporting KC Vs Minnesota United: 3 things to watch for

Sporting KC, Minnesota United (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Sporting KC, Minnesota United (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota United
ST PAUL, MINNESOTA – SEPTEMBER 25: Jan Gregus #8 of Minnesota United leads his teammates in a celebration after United clinched a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs after defeating Sporting Kansas City 2-1 at Allianz Field on September 25, 2019, in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

Sporting KC take on Minnesota United to open up Group D on July 12th. Ahead of a group with much uncertainty, here are three things to watch for. 

Entering Group D as the two favorites to advance, both Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United will be eager to get back to winning ways for the first time since early March. Since Minnesota’s 2017 MLS debut, Sporting KC has won five of the ten matchups in all competitions, earning three wins and two draws.

With the three group-stage matches for each team counting towards the regular-season table, both sides will need their best throughout the tournament’s opening phase. Both sides are taking different approaches to the situation. The Loons arrived in Orlando early last week while Peter Vermes flew his team out ‘as late as possible’, which ended up being Sunday evening.

Minnesota United have aspirations of winning the tournament, which would give them their first-ever CONCACAF Champions League spot. Although Ike Opara won’t be available throughout the group stage, manager Adrian Heath hasn’t ruled out bringing him back for the knockout rounds.

Sporting KC, meanwhile, will look to add their fifth trophy since the Wizards rebrand in 2010-11. Sporting KC brought the entire squad down to Orlando except for the injured Felipe Gutierrez and Andreu Fontas. That includes players who could potentially make their MLS debuts like Cameron Duke and Tyler Freeman along with third-choice goalkeeper John Pulskamp.

Both sides are looking to build from the opening two weeks of play, sitting on six points after two wins and a combined 15 goals from the first two games.

With two teams that appear to be strong candidates to win the tournament, here are three things to watch for.

Sporting KC, Johnny Russell
KANSAS CITY, KS – AUGUST 17: Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell (7) makes a run in the second half of an MLS match between the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City on August 17, 2019, at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

3. The Worst Rivalry in Sports

This may be the worst rivalry in sports. It is almost entirely fabricated. Either way, this specific matchup on Sunday may be the most exciting one yet. Two teams with high expectations for 2020 meet in surreal circumstances in Orlando.

While the rivalry won’t provide much excitement, the first game in more than four months for both sides will warrant both sides to come flying out of the gate. The first 15 minutes will be interesting to watch, but both sides must remain focused and with a dose of reality that neither will be close to full match fitness in the not-so-kind weather that Orlando offers in July.

This match will weigh heavily on management from the players to the coaches. Peter Vermes has a history of criticism for waiting too long to make substitutions because he doesn’t want to ruin his team’s flow. With the 8:00 PM  ET/local time (7:00 PM CT) kickoff, the heat will be a major factor in the first half before slowly cooling off later in the match. The high-energy high press will not be as effective for the entire game with the energy-sapping heat, but the possession-based system that SKC have suits them well as long as they don’t force things.