Minnesota United gameday

7:30 p.m. at Sporting KC • FSN Plus, 1500-AM

Loons return to tough venue

Preview: In the three games United has played at Children’s Mercy Park since starting in MLS last season, the Loons have lost by a combined score of 11-1.

“The results when we played there before have gone so poorly, and they’re so tough at home. We don’t want to get embarrassed again,” center back Brent Kallman said of Sporting Kansas City.

“Every time we’ve played there, it’s been, we haven’t just gotten beat, it’s been kind of embarrassing. They absolutely have punished us.

“So I think there is a little bit of extra motivation to put in a really good performance and make it so if they are going to get three points, they’ve got to really earn it.”

That’s a tall order for United (9-14-2, ninth in the Western conference) against Kansas City (12-6-6, second in the West). Kansas City is on a three-game winning streak in which it has not given up a goal.

United hasn’t won in four games. The Loons are eight points out of playoff contention with just nine games left in the season, their playoff hopes diminishing quickly.

“As each week goes by, we give ourselves a smaller window to keep our season alive,” coach Adrian Heath said. “So it’s a big game for us.”

A rivalry? MLS calls this week its “rivalry week,” with several big matchups around the league. United and Kansas City weren’t included, despite a few years of U.S. Open Cup history and a new regional battle in MLS.

Center back Michael Boxall said even though he joined United only halfway through last season, he feels a different vibe when playing the other Midwest team.

“The atmospheres that we’ve had both down there and here, I don’t know, there definitely seems a bit more energy coming from the fans, and you always feed off of that. So when you feel that energy, it definitely feels like it,” Boxall said of a rivalry.

“It’s a massive one for us to keep our season alive, and also, it’s a very big one for the fans. And we need to show a lot to give back to them for all they’ve done for us this season.”

Numbers: Kansas City is fourth in the league with 30 goals allowed this season. United is third-to-last with 50 allowed goals.

Injuries: For United, M Sam Cronin (concussion), D Tyrone Mears (undisclosed) and M Darwin Quintero (calf) are out. For Kansas City, D Jimmy Medranda (knee), F Khiry Shelton (knee), D/M Brad Evans (Achilles’) and M Cristian Lobato (quad) are out.

Megan Ryan