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Sporting Kansas City-Impact Preview

AP - Sports

After signing their coach to a contract extension, Sporting Kansas City can focus on continuing its run atop the Eastern Conference.

The slumping Montreal Impact are just trying to hold their ground behind them.

The East's top two teams meet Saturday night in Montreal after splitting two matches earlier this season.

Sporting KC announced a contract extension with coach Peter Vermes on Tuesday, retaining him through the 2017 season. Vermes' club has won the East's regular-season title each of the past two seasons as well as last year's U.S. Open Cup. He has served as the team's technical director since 2006 and its coach since 2009.

"It's been a fun couple of years," Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman said. "I don't think we've done everything we wanted to do, but we just really appreciate the progress that Peter has made and the progress that his leadership has made to the organization."

Vermes is in the midst of another successful season, guiding Sporting to a 10-5-6 record, including a 4-0-2 run over its last six matches. Sporting KC has tallied 13 goals in its last six contests after managing 18 over its first 15 league matches.

The club is coming off one of its most impressive victories, a 2-1 final last Saturday at league-leading Real Salt Lake. Ike Opara's goal on a header off a corner kick in the final minute of stoppage time helped snap Salt Lake's 11-match unbeaten streak across all competitions.

Montreal (9-5-5) has managed to hang on to second place despite going 0-2-3 in its last five matches. The Impact began the season with nine victories through their first 14 contests, but have been shut out in their last two after a scoreless home draw with FC Dallas last Saturday

Without Marco Di Vaio - the league's third-leading scorer with 11 goals - they couldn't find the back of the net despite 14 shots and five corner kicks. Di Vaio was attending to a family matter in Italy, but has since returned and is expected to play Saturday.

"It's great timing," assistant coach Mauro Biello told the team's official website. "He's our key player, the one who scored the most goals for us. Considering our current stretch without many goals, it's good to see him back."

Di Vaio has not scored in either of the two matches with Sporting KC this season - a 2-0 loss on March 30, and 2-1 win on June 1.

The clubs played a scoreless draw when they last met in Montreal on Sept. 22.

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