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Preview: Sporting put home streak up vs. Chivas USA

Sporting Kansas City look to remain undefeated at their new Livestrong Sporting Park home – and extend their league unbeaten run – when they play host to Chivas USA on Saturday evening. Sporting are undefeated in nine games in MLS play – and 11 in all competitions – after a 1-1 draw with Colorado at midweek. Chivas USA also played on Wednesday, defeating San Jose 2-0 at home to snap a four-game winless slide.

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REFEREE: Jasen Anno. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Peter Balciunas; 4th: Daniel Fitzgerald
MLS Career: 26 games; FC/gm: 22.5; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 17; pens: 7

INJURY REPORT:
SPORTING KANSAS CITY – OUT: FW Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery); MF Craig Rocastle (R knee sprain); MF Davy Arnaud (sports hernia); DOUBTFUL: DF Seth Sinovic (R hamstring strain)
CHIVAS USA – DOUBTFUL: DF Jimmy Conrad (concussion); QUESTIONABLE: DF Ante Jazic (R calf strain); MF Paulo Nagamura (L quad strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES:
CHV: Alejandro Moreno (Venezuela)

SUSPENDED:
none

WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD:
none
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS:
KC: Omar Bravo, Julio Cesar, Aurelien Collin
CHV: Nick LaBrocca, Michael Lahoud, Zarek Valentin

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (13 meetings): Sporting 6 wins, 21 goals … Chivas USA 4 wins, 18 goals … Ties 3
AT KC (6 meetings): Sporting 4 wins, 12 goals … Chivas USA 1 win, 8 goals … Ties 1
•    The teams opened the 2011 season against each other, Omar Bravo scoring twice and rookie CJ Sapong adding another in a 3-2 Sporting win at The Home Depot Center on March 19.
•    Chivas USA has come away with points from their last two trips to Kansas City, a 1-1 draw in 2009 and the 2-0 victory last season.
•    Kansas City have won the last two meetings at The Home Depot Center. The road victories a year ago were the first ever in the history of the series.
•    Coaches' records: Robin Fraser v COL: P1 W0 L1 D0… Peter Vermes vs. CHV: P4 W2 L2 D0

LAST MEETING (MLS)
CHV 2, KC 3 (Sapong 2; Bravo 45, 74 – Conrad 56; Zemanski 84)
•    Rookie C.J. Sapong put Sporting into the lead after just two minutes, winning a cleared corner floated back into the box and pouncing on the loose ball. Omar Bravo then doubled the lead in first-half stoppage time, coolly chipping a curling pass over goalkeeper Zach Thornton from the top of the box.
•    Chivas USA pulled a goal back in the 55th minute when Jimmy Conrad potted from close range from a corner kick scramble. But Bravo hit for his second in the 74th minute, racing onto a return 1-2 header from Kei Kamara and coolly slotting home.
•    Ben Zemanski finished the scoreline in the 84th minute when another corner was cleared and then played back into the goalmouth where the second-year midfielder turned it home.
•    CHIVAS USA (4-1-4-1): Zach Thornton - Heath Pearce, Zarek Valentin, Jimmy Conrad, Ante Jazic (Victor Estupinan 86) - Ben Zemanski - Marcos Mondaini (Tristan Bowen 70) - Nick LaBrocca, Francisco Mendoza (Blair Gavin 62), Justin Braun - Alejandro Moreno.
•    SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Luke Sassano (Chance Myers 72), Julio Cesar, Matt Besler, Roger Espinoza - Craig Rocastle (Stephane Auvray 20) - Davy Arnaud, Milos Stojcev (Graham Zusi 89) - Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong, Omar Bravo.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City extended their league undefeated streak to nine games, coming back for a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday evening at at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting have 21 points from 17 matches on the season, moving into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    Colorado took the lead in the 32nd minute. Tyrone Marshall’s long free kick from inside the Rapids’ half found Conor Casey outside the top of the penalty area. Casey took the ball down with his chest, let it bounce once and hit a shot on the half-volley past a diving Jimmy Nielsen.
•    Sporting equalized just after the hour. A flowing move from their own end culminated in a low shot from CJ Sapong that was saved by Rapids 'keeper Matt Pickens. But the rebound fell directly to Graham Zusi and he calmly slid the ball into the back of the net.
•    SKC manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that defeated the Portland Timbers 2-1 at Jeld-Wen Field. Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury came into the team in place of Milos Stojcev and CJ Sapong.
•    SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers (Birahim Diop 90), Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Michael Harrington - Roger Espinoza, Julio Cesar - Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi, Omar Bravo - Teal Bunbury (CJ Sapong  61).

TEAM NEWS
•    Sporting’s nine-game unbeaten streak (4-0-5), dating back to May 28, is the second-longest in club history. The then-Wizards reeled off a 12-game streak in their MLS Cup season of 2000.
•    “It would have been great to get the three points,” said defender Matt Besler. “I think we probably deserved it, but in the grand scheme of things we played well, we're still undefeated at home and we still have the unbeaten streak intact, so those are positives.”
•    Sporting also has the second-longest undefeated streak in MLS this season, behind the LA Galaxy’s currently active streak of 12 games.
•    SKC also still has yet to lose in their new Livestrong Sporting Park home, now with two wins and two draws in four starts.
•    “I’m proud of the fact that we were able to get the goal,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “We were around the two posts and the crossbar. We had a lot of great chances. … At the end of the day, when we are at home, we want to win.”
•    After giving up multiple goals five times in the opening seven games of the season, SKC has not allowed more than a single goal in each of its last 10 contests, recording four shutouts.
•    “That's the goal as a defender. We've done a good job of limiting the amount of chances, and anytime you can do that it's going to give you a good chance to win,” Besler said.
•    Graham Zusi scored his third goal of the season. He has three goals and three assists in his last five appearances (since June12), his entire output thus far for the season.
•    While he did not figure in the scoring, rookie CJ Sapong nearly turned the match on its head. Returning to the substitutes’ bench after two straight starts, Sapong came on at the hour, and his run through the Rapids defense created the Sporting goal, while he later saw a shot pushed onto the crossbar.
•    “Obviously, (Sapong) was fresh at that point, and they’re a little bit tired,” Vermes said. “I think also his movement (caused problems), and he his raw, physical ability to be able to turn guys. He plays excellent with his back to goal, and then he’s incredible in the air. Guys think they have him and next thing you know, he somehow slips away.”

CHIVAS USA
Chivas USA put paid to their four-game winless run, getting two second-half goals for a 2-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday evening at The Home Depot Center. Chivas USA have 21 points from 17 games on the season, in a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    Chivas USA finally took the lead in the 64th minute, when Justin Braun played the ball forward to Ben Zemanski, who fired a bending strike from 30 yards that swerved out of San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch's reach.
•    The hosts doubled their lead in the 84th minute. Second-half substitute midfielder Francisco Mendoza easily unlocked the Earthquakes defense with a through ball to a wide open Nick LaBrocca in the area, and the attack-minded midfielder coolly finished.
•    Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser made two changes to the team that played to a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire at The Home Depot Center. Blair Gavin came into the midfield for Paulo Nagamura, and Victor Estupinan started up top in place of Marcos Mondaini.
•    CHIVAS USA (4-1-3-2): Dan Kennedy - Michael Lahoud, Michael Umana, Heath Pearce, Zarek Valentin - Simon Elliott - Blair Gavin (Francisco Mendoza 74), Nick LaBrocca, Jorge Flores (Ben Zemanski 58) - Justin Braun, Victor Estupinan.

TEAM NEWS
•    Chivas USA won for the first time in more than a month, since a 1-0 home win against Portland on June 4. Chivas ended the season with seven wins a year ago.
•    “Win No. 5, in our opinion, has been a long time coming,” said Chivas head coach Robin Fraser. “We’ve played well enough to get results in the past, but this is part of our learning experience because it’s not good enough to play well. You have to play well and play effectively over 90 minutes, and I think that for us, it’s a good milestone, especially coming off the last few games where we’ve scored quite a few goals but have also given up quite a few as well.”
•    That victory was also the last time Chivas USA had kept a clean sheet, allowing eight goals over their last four matches (three losses and a draw).
•    “I think our defenders really answered the challenge and made great decisions tonight and as a result of it, we were able to prevent too many dangerous opportunities and we’re extremely excited about the shutout,” Fraser said. “ … The teams that play well are the ones that don’t get involved in shootouts. You need to be disciplined defensively and find good opportunities, so I feel that tonight was a good building block for us.”
•    Victor Estupiñan was given his first start in league play since the second game of the season, March 26 vs. Colorado. Blair Gavin made his first start since the very same game, after suffering a hamstring injury.
•    “Tonight was a great example of the strength of our team where we’re able to put players on and put players off and have no drop in play and have a play continue, and at times even get better,” Fraser said. “I’m extremely proud of the guys who came off the bench, as well as those who have not been necessarily in the starting group, they’re still highly competitive, work extremely hard, and I think that gives our team credit.”
•    Nick LaBrocca scored his fifth goal of the season, his second in as many games. He has now equaled his career total in goals in 2011; in his first four MLS seasons (three with Colorado, one with Toronto FC), LaBrocca scored five goals.
•    “The effort is on the team, there isn’t just one guy. I feel like our locker room is full of many leaders but collectively everyone steps up and takes part of a leadership role and I feel as if that’s going to carry us on through the season,” LaBrocca said.
•    Francisco Mendoza was also able to return to the field, making his first appearance in five matches.
•    “Due to some circumstances, I haven’t been able to be in the starting lineup like I’ve wanted to, but we have to be at the coach’s disposition and today, I was able to play 20 minutes, of which I think I did well,” Mendoza said. “… Personally, I felt satisfied with how I contributed with the assist.”