After midweek draw, Sporting eye battle for first place in Seattle on Sunday

Sporting KC

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – MARCH 07: A general view as fans walk outside Children’s Mercy Park prior to the game between the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park on March 07, 2020 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City struck late to draw with the San Jose Earthquakes Wednesday night, missing out on an opportunity to go level on points with the Seattle Sounders for first place in the Western Conference.

SKC went down 1-0 when Nathan Cardoso found the back of the net on a header from a corner kick in the 53rd minute.

A familiar position for Sporting as they were able to, once again, claw back and salvage a point and remain unbeaten at home with Dániel Sallói’s 8th goal of the season in stoppage time.

“We got a result. We stayed in the game. We fought our way back and we continued with a good mentality. At the end, a good team effort and we’ve just got to keep working, keep fighting and keep getting better,” Manager Peter Vermes, who was not on the sideline due to the MLS health and safety protocol, said.

With the draw, SKC add to their league leading points from losing positions total, now at 17, nearly 10 more comeback points than any other club.

Kansas City sit just two points behind the Sounders and will pay a visit to Lumen Field on Sunday.

Sporting will still be without 19-year-old wunderkind Gianluca Busio and second-leading scorer Alan Pulido who are away with USA and Mexico, respectively, in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.

Wednesday night, along with Vermes, two other players were unavailable due to the MLS health and safety protocol and midfielder Felipe Hernandez was away for personal reasons.

It is unclear if those players will return at this time.

Replacing such high-caliber players will be the biggest question mark, especially with rumors that Busio will not be returning to Sporting KC with a transfer to Serie A in Italy looming.

Vermes has been no stranger to filling gaps on the starting lineup, especially as a huge proponent of the professional player pathway.

On Wednesday, SKC Academy products Cam Duke and Wilson Harris made their first professional starts for the club and showed promise with Duke playing all 90 minutes.

“[Cam] was probably the player of the game from our perspective,” Vermes said. “With his speed, his quickness to turn, to make separation with other players is tremendous and tonight he put it on display. I hope he gains a lot of confidence from it because he was, in a lot of respects, unstoppable.”

Seattle and Kansas City are two of six MLS clubs who are undefeated at home through 14 games this season.

The Sounders are coming off their first loss of the season to Minnesota United FC last Sunday.

The Western Conference leaders are also without their biggest goal-scoring threat Cristian Roldan who joins Busio with the Stars & Stripes.

Roldan is tied with Javier “Chicharito” Hernández for first in MLS with 10 goals, just two ahead of Sallói.

If Sporting can come out with a win, they would not only take control of the top spot in the Western Conference, but would also be tied for the lead for the Supporters’ Shield with Eastern Conference leader the New England Revolution.

The Revolution have overtaken Sporting as the highest scoring team in the league, aided by a 5-0 whopping of Inter Miami FC on Wednesday.

A lot is on the line in Sunday’s matchup and neither team will want to walk away with a loss while missing key players to their rosters.

Sporting Kansas City and the Seattle Sounders kickoff at 8 p.m. Central Time Sunday night.

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