Sporting Kansas City vs Philadelphia Union 10-25-2012 - Preview

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Sporting Kansas City
2 - 1
Final
Philadelphia Union
MLS Regular Season
October 24, 2012
8:30pm EDT
Livestrong Sporting Park
NBCSN

Preview: SKC aim to lock up East's top spot against Union

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs PHILADELPHIA UNION
LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
October 24, 2012 (WEEK 33, MLS Game #314)
7:30 p.m. CT (NBC SN; KSMO; TCN-Phi)
 
Sporting Kansas City will be looking to close out their regular season Livestrong Sporting Park campaign and secure homefield advantage for the MLS Cup Playoffs when they entertain Philadelphia Union on Wednesday evening. Sporting can clinch the top spot in the East with a victory or a draw, coming off a scoreless draw at New York last weekend. It’s the final road match for Union this season, following a 3-1 defeat in Houston over the weekend.
 
REFEREE: Ismail Elfath. SAR (bench): Paul Scott; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Leszek Stalmach
MLS Career: 7 games; FC/gm: 22.3; Y/gm: 2.1; R: 4; pens: 5
 
 
INJURY REPORT:
SPORTING KANSAS CITY – OUT: FW Teal Bunbury (L knee ACL tear); MF Roger Espinoza (R ankle sprain); DF Cyprian Hedrick (L fibula fracture)
PHILADELPHIA UNION – OUT: DF Bakary Soumare (R knee menisectomy recovery); DOUBTFUL: DF Gabriel Farfan (R ankle stress reaction); QUESTIONABLE: DF Sheanon Williams (L ankle peroneal/Achilles strain); MF Danny Cruz (L big toe sesamoid stress fracture); FW Zach Pfeffer (L knee contusion); PROBABLE: MF Freddy Adu (L quad strain)
 
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
 
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD:
KC: Paulo Nagamura
PHI: Gabriel Farfan, Gabriel Gomez, Jack McInerney, Michael Lahoud
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS:
KC: Matt Besler, Julio Cesar, Kei Kamara, Chance Myers, Jimmy Nielsen, Lawrence Olum, Graham Zusi
PHI: Brian Carroll, Carlos Valdes, Michael Farfan
 
HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (5 meetings): Sporting 1 win, 4 goals … Union 1 win, 6 goals … Ties 3
AT KC (2 meetings): Sporting 1 win, 3 goals … Union 0 wins, 1 goal … Ties 1
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Union handed Sporting their heaviest defeat of the season in a 4-0 win June 23 at PPL Park, as Jack McInerney scored a pair of goals.
  • It was the first victory in the all-time series for Philadelphia, following three consecutive draws. Kansas City recorded a 2-0 win against Union on June 10, 2010 in their first meeting ever.
  • Coaches' records: John Hackworth vs. KC: P1 W1 L0 D0 … Peter Vermes vs. PHI: P5 W1 L1 D3
LAST MEETING
6/23: PHI 4, KC 0 (McInerney 1, 42; Pajoy 81; Hoppenot 87)
  • Union took the lead with the first opening-minute goal in club history. Raymon Gaddis chased down a long ball and played the ball across the face of goal, where Lionard Pajoy managed to keep the ball in play. Jack McInerney latched onto the loose ball lashing a shot into the back of the net from close range.
  • McInerney showed off his poaching ability again just before the end of the first. A Freddy Adu service in the 43rd minute took a deflection and found defender Carlos Valdés, whose attempt on net was stopped. McInerney, though, was there to gobble up the rebound.
  • Union made the lead 3-0 with about 20 minutes to play. Substitute Antoine Hoppenot made a nifty cutback move in the box and was taken down by SKC defender Aurélien Collin, drawing a penalty kick, which converted by Pajoy.
  • Then, in the 87th minute, Hoppenot grabbed a goal of his own when Michael Farfan sent him in alone on goal, giving the forward time and space to loft a shot over KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-4-2): Zac MacMath - Raymon Gaddis, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan - Freddy Adu (Antoine Hoppenot 59), Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan - Lionard Pajoy, Jack McInerney (Keon Daniel 73).
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Lawrence Olum, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic - Julio Cesar (Michael Thomas 64), Roger Espinoza (Jacob Peterson 84) - Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi, C.J. Sapong (Soony Saad 74) - Teal Bunbury.
 
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City stretched their undefeated streak to 11 games, playing to a scoreless draw with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena. Sporting are in first place in the Eastern Conference, with 60 points from 33 matches.
 
LAST MATCH
  • Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was credited with five saves on the evening in recording his league-leading 15th shutout of the season.
  • Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles made just one stop, but it was a vital one, as Kei Kamara headed a beautiful cross from Graham Zusi on target in the 86th minute only to see Robles keep it out with a great reaction save.
  • Sporting head coach Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that was pegged back into a 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium. Aurelien Collin returned to the back four in place of Lawrence Olum, and Jacob Peterson came into the midfield for Roger Espinoza.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-4-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Julio Cesar - Jacob Peterson (Lawrence Olum 79), Paulo Nagamura, Graham Zusi (Bobby Convey 88), Kei Kamara - C.J. Sapong.
TEAM NEWS
  • It was the 15th shutout of the season for Sporting and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, one away from the league’s all-time single season record, set in 2000 by Kansas City goalkeeper Tony Meola.
  • “I think he's got to be a slam dunk for Goalkeeper of the Year,” manager Peter Vermes said. “He's had so many shutouts, so many great performances, been so consistent from Game 1 all the way through now to Game 33. He's just a big-time goalkeeper.”
  • It was the fourth clean sheet in the last five games for Sporting, who have not allowed more than one goal in any of their last 11 games, dating back to Aug. 4, conceding just five goals in that time.
  • “We kept the shutout but it was a total team effort. New York threw in a lot of numbers forward, they came out with a lot of energy tonight, but we did well to manage. It was a collective team effort,” said defender Matt Besler.
  • Nielsen is second in goals against average at 0.79, behind Seattle’s Michael Gspurning (0.72), who has played 13 fewer games. Both goals against averages will rank among the top five all-time in MLS history for a single season; the league record is 0.62, set by Kevin Hartman with FC Dallas in 2010.
  • “He was very big, very focused, very concentrated, even when he got killed in the goal that one time when they basically came and bum-rushed him,” Vermes said. “He still kept the ball out of the back of the net.”
  • With a victory or a draw vs. Philadelphia – or the failure of D.C. United to defeat the Chicago Fire on Saturday – Sporting will clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference and home-field advantage throughout the MLS Cup Playoffs – and possibly for the MLS Cup Final.
  • A year ago, Sporting won the Eastern Conference regular season title, but lost 2-0 to Houston in the conference championship at Livestrong Sporting Park.
  • Bobby Convey was able to make his first appearance since Aug. 4, a late cameo role as a substitute.
  • With Roger Espinoza sidelined with an ankle injury, Jacob Peterson made his second start in the last four matches. Espinoza did return to full training in the days leading to the Philadelphia match.
  • “If the game was right now, I couldn't play,” Espinoza said. “I'll see how I feel the rest of the day and [Tuesday], or even Wednesday morning or later. It was sore at the beginning, like any injury, but it loosened up. I'm taking it slow, though, because you don't know – when you're trying to go forward – if you're going to hurt it again.”
PHILADELPHIA UNION
Philadelphia Union saw their two-game winning streak come to an end, falling 3-1 to the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday evening. Union are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 36 points from 32 games.
 
LAST MATCH
  • The Dynamo took the lead after just five minutes. After stripping Carlos Valdés of the ball, leaving the Union defender standing in pain, Macoumba Kandji raced in on goal and beat Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath with a calm, placed finish.
  • But Union pulled level in the 19th minute. Sheanon Williams capped an overlapping run with an early ball that found forward Jack McInerney slipping between the Dynamo defense to head home from the heart of the area.
  • Houston was back in front in the 71st minute. Brian Ching led the counter and picked out Boniek García on his left. After cutting in on his favored right foot, García hit a curling shot to the near post that MacMath could only deflect into the roof of the net for the eventual game-winner.
  • Four minutes later the game was sealed after Will Bruin was taken down by Valdés in the box, and Brad Davis stepped up to slot home the resulting penalty to MacMath’s right.
  • Union interim manager John Hackworth made three changes to the team that defeated the New England Revolution 1-0 at PPL Park. Sheanon Williams came into the back four for Gabriel Farfan, and Danny Cruz and Freddy Adu came back into the midfield for Gabriel Gomez and Keon Daniel.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Raymon Gaddis, Carlos Valdes, Amobi Okugo, Sheanon Williams (Antoine Hoppenot 64) - Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll, Danny Cruz (Roger Torres 78), Michael Farfan, Freddy Adu (Gabriel Gomez 58) - Jack McInerney.
TEAM NEWS
  • The trip to KC will be the final road match of the season for Union, who are 3-9-4 on their travels. With a win they would match their most road victories in a season in club history, after going 4-7-6 last year.
  • “I’m pretty disappointed in the way we played,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “I didn’t feel like our team performed at the level we are capable of. With that said, you have to give Houston credit. It’s incredibly hard to play here. They made it hard. They came out with a ton of pressure. They fought for everything.
  • Jack McInerney scored for a fourth consecutive match, a new Union club record.
  • “It definitely feels good but I would have rather won tonight,” McInerney said. “It (stinks) to lose. ... I thought it was a sloppy match by us. They came out strong and pushed us. We had a tough time controlling the ball and getting forward. It just wasn’t good enough for us tonight.”
  • McInerney has scored all eight of his goals since he was installed into the starting lineup by then-interim manager John Hackworth, June 16 vs. D.C. United. All of McInerney’s eight goals have come in his 18 appearances since.
  • Making his return to the back four, Sheanon Williams recorded his second assist, his first since July 29. Both of his assists have come on crosses to McInerney for header goals.
  • “The ball got out wide. Freddy [Adu] and I got in the box and Sheanon [Williams] played a good ball right-footed and I just tried to flick it back post and it went over Tally [Hall’s] head,” said McInerney.
  • After a three-match absence, Freddy Adu returned to the Union lineup, playing 58 minutes in a midfield role.
  • Danny Cruz also returned to the lineup after a one-match absence, after he was forced from the field before halftime because of injury in the win at Chicago on Oct. 3.
  • “We couldn’t seem to find our rhythm. We gave up an early goal that should never have happened. We did well to get back into the back, but we failed to control the tempo we way we wanted to. Part of that is that this is an incredibly tough place to play,” Hackworth said.