Sporting returns to league play against struggling TFC

After a week off from league play, Sporting Kansas City continues its pursuit of the top spot in the Eastern Conference when the club travels to BMO Field to take on Toronto FC on Saturday.

Sporting has won its last two matches in MLS, and tuned up for Saturday's clash with TFC by earning a 1-1 draw in CONCACAF Champions League play with Nicaraguan side Real Esteli on Tuesday.

A win would have put Sporting in a great position to advance in the competition, but Jacob Peterson's 78th-minute goal was needed to salvage a point.

Now the club will turn its attention back to league play in an effort to chase down Eastern Conference leaders Red Bull New York, which sits three points clear of Sporting.

After a two-game losing skid Peter Vermes has seen his team rebound to win back-to-back games, including a 3-0 victory over Columbus last time out.

Forward C.J. Sapong has endured a trying season with Sporting so far after two strong campaigns to begin his MLS career.

Already this season Sapong has spent two stints on loan at USL PRO affiliate Orlando City, while amassing just two goals in 20 appearances with eight starts.

But over the past two games Sapong has shown flashes of the player who emerged as one of the bright young talents in the league in his first two seasons.

The 24-year-old came off the bench to assist on Graham Zusi's game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Colorado on Aug. 31, while he started the last game and scored in Sporting's 3-0 win over the Crew two weeks ago.

"This year was the year I had to face the most adversity, compared to my first two," Sapong told "But looking back at it now, I wouldn't have had it any other way. It's made my growth transform to an exponential level, if you will. I'm just getting tested every day. Besides soccer, that's how I would like it in life, to be tested and to continue facing challenges to overcome."

Consistent production from Sapong over the remainder of the season would be a big boost to Sporting's chances of tracking down New York, or at least securing another playoff berth.

Toronto, meanwhile, was eliminated from postseason contention last weekend following a 2-0 defeat at New York.

The club has yet to reach the playoffs in its seven-year existence, and the result also ran TFC's winless streak to seven matches.

Head coach Ryan Nelsen headed to New York with a shortage of quality scoring options as leader scorer Robert Earnshaw did not make the trip because of a hamstring problem, while Designated Player Danny Koevermans is still battling match fitness.

Despite the loss, Nelsen felt good about the performance his team put in, but also recognized that he didn't have a match-changing talent like New York's Thierry Henry to lean on.

"It was a couple of soft goals, but the first half performance was extremely good," Nelsen said. "We created a lot of chances and put ourselves in a position to score, but the difference between us and them is obvious with a guy like [Thierry] Henry and his quality up front."