There are still plenty of matches left on the regular-season schedule, but the playoff race is heating up.
Two teams at or near the cut-off point for the MLS postseason will go toe-to-toe when Sporting Kansas City host Austin FC on Saturday night in Kansas City, Kan.
With a victory, Sporting KC (4-8-5, 17 points) would move ahead of Austin (5-7-4, 19 points) and likely above the red line in the Western Conference. An Austin victory puts some space between the two clubs.
SKC extended their unbeaten streak to three games (2-0-1) with a 1-1 draw last Saturday in Vancouver, leaving Kansas City 4-1-2 in its last seven matches. It was SKC's third game in seven days.
SKC led Vancouver most of the match on a goal by Alan Pulido in the 20th minute before a late penalty in the box resulted in a PK by Vancouver's Ryan Gauld.
"When you have these three games in (seven) days (and) when you have to go on the road for the third one, it's always the most difficult game just because of everything, the accumulation," SKC coach Peter Vermes said. "I think the guys battled, and they really didn't give much away."
Austin is on a bid of a skid, having lost two of its last three matches (1-2-0). The most recent setback came at home against Real Salt Lake last weekend. Rubio Rubin put RSL on the board in the 15th minute and then recorded a brace in the 81st. Julio Cascante scored in stoppage time for Austin to avert the shutout.
"Obviously (it was) a difficult and frustrating night for us," Austin coach Josh Wolff said following the 2-1 loss. "I think there were opportunities for us to make more of that game and possibly push the result the other direction."
The two sides are about as even as their overall records indicate. They are separated by one goal (17 to 16 in favor of Austin) and one goal allowed (24 for SKC, 23 for Austin), and they even have exactly the same number of fouls committed this season (161).
--Field Level Media