Sporting Kansas City host Minnesota United at Children's Mercy Park on Wednesday evening in the Western Conference semi-finals of the 2020 MLS Cup.
The winner will face either Seattle Sounders or FC Dallas to decide the Western Conference's representation in the MLS Cup championship game.
After finishing the regular season on top of the Western Conference, Sporting reached the conference semi-finals by edging San Jose Earthquakes in a penalty shoot-out after a thrilling 120 minutes of action which ended 3-3.
The penalties, however, turned out to be one-way traffic as penalty-kick specialist goalkeeper Tim Melia heroically saved all of the first three spot-kicks from San Jose, while Kansas scored all of theirs to take the win.
The other playoff fixture saw a much more comfortable win for Minnesota United, who breezed past Colorado Rapids 3-0. The club from Saint Paul recorded the best ever result in their four-year history in the MLS by reaching the conference semi-finals.
Wide-man Kevin Molino scored a brace and striker Robin Lod added another for Minnesota to give The Loons a dominant victory; their first ever in the MLS playoffs.
Sporting Kansas City vs Minnesota United Head-to-Head
Sporting Kansas City have thoroughly dominated this particular match-up with 10 wins over Minnesota United in 15 games. Minnesota have managed only three wins against their opposition, with two other fixtures ending in a draw.
In the MLS alone, the two sides have met 10 times, with six wins for Sporting and two for Minnesota United, while the teams shared the points in two other games.
Sporting Kansas City form guide: D(W)-W-W-W-D
Sporting Kansas City form guide: W-W-D-W-W
Sporting Kansas City vs Minnesota United Team News
Felipe Gutierrez and Graham Zusi are both out for Sporting Kansas City with long-term injuries. Alan Pulido and Matt Besler were not medically cleared for the side's previous game and their participation in Wednesday's game remains in doubt.
Injuries: Felipe Gutierrez, Graham Zusi
Doubtful: Alan Pulido, Matt Besler
For Minnesota United, Tyler Miller, Ike Opara and Luis Amarilla are all out with long-term injuries. Versatile midfielder Hassani Dotson recovered earlier than expected from a sprained ankle and returned to the starting line-up as right-back against Colorado. He could return to his regular position in defensive midfield if Romain Metanire is available.
Injuries: Tyler Miller, Ike Opara, Luis Amarilla
Doubtful: Alan Pulido, Matt Besler
Sporting Kansas City vs Minnesota United Probable XI
Sporting KC Predicted XI (4-3-3): Tim Melia; Jaylin Lindsay, Winston Reid, Roberto Puncec, Amadou Dia; Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza, Gianluca Busio; Johnny Russell, Erik Hurtado, Khiry Shelton.
Minnesota United Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Dayne St. Clair; Romain Métanire, , Michael Boxall, Bakaye Dibassy, Chase Gasper; Jan Gregus, Hassani Dotson; Ethan Finlay, Emanuel Reynoso, Kevin Molino; Robin Lod
Sporting Kansas City vs Minnesota United Prediction
Sporting Kansas City's defence have regularly provided reasons to be skeptical about their chances to go all the way. This was evident against the Earthquakes as Sporting lost their lead twice in the game.
A lot depends on star striker Alan Pulido's inclusion for Sporting. If the Mexican starts, they can outscore Minnesota.
Despite injuries, Minnesota United are a side clicking at the right time. They are undefeated in their previous nine games. Their attack is exactly the kind of setup that can expose Sporting's weak defence.
But as the head-to-head suggests, Minnesota are historically favorable opposition for Sporting.
If the game goes to penalties, Sporting are the clear favorites with Tim Melia between the sticks. However, we're leaning towards an upset win for Minnesota United in normal time.
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City 2-3 Minnesota UnitedPublished 01 Dec 2020, 00:24 IST