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Preview: Sporting search for seventh-heaven at Vancouver

VAN_KC_DL

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VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC vs SPORTING KANSAS CITY

BC PLACE, Vancouver, B.C.

April 18, 2012 (WEEK 7, MLS Game #55)

7 p.m. PT (SNET Pac.; KSMO)

Sporting Kansas City put their perfect record on the line in what could be a real test, traveling to Vancouver to face Whitecaps FC at BC Place. Sporting have six wins from six games, after knocking off Real Salt Lake 1-0 at home last weekend. Whitecaps FC return to action after a bye week, their last match a 3-1 loss at San Jose that put an end to their unbeaten streak and record shutout streak to start a season.

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): Ian Anderson; JAR (opposite): Kevin Duliba; 4th: Alejandro Mariscal

MLS Career: 129 games; FC/gm: 24.9; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 47; pens: 48

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INJURY REPORT: VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC — OUT: FW Darren Mattocks (R shoulder burn); DF Alain Rochat (L knee sprain); GK Brian Sylvestre (R knee surgery); DOUBTFUL: FW Etienne Barbara (groin strain); MF Floyd Franks (lower back pain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Michael Nanchoff (L heel contusion) … SPORTING KANSAS CITY — OUT: GK Eric Kronberg (lower back injury); DOUBTFUL: DF Cyprian Hedrick (R Achilles tendinitis)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS: none

SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none

SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD

ALL-TIME (2 meetings): Whitecaps FC 0 wins, 4 goals … Sporting 1 win, 5 goals … Ties 1

AT VANCOUVER (1 meeting): Whitecaps FC 0 wins, 3 goals … Sporting 0 wins, 3 goals … Ties 1

LAST YEAR (MLS):

4/2: VAN 3, KC 3 (Harris 73; Camilo 91+, 93+ — Bunbury 45, 58; Kamara 62)

6/25: KC 2, VAN 1 (Camilo 15 — Bravo 33; Julio Cesar 40

  • This is the only league meeting between the teams this season.
  • The teams played to a wild 3-3 draw in their first-ever meeting last April 2 at Empire Field, Whitecaps FC scoring two goals in stoppage time to pull out the result.
  • Whitecaps FC became the fourth club in MLS history to overcome a deficit of three goals to gain a point, matching the largest in MLS history. All four matches ended in draws, though the first — a May 4, 1996 meeting between the MetroStars and Tampa Bay — concluded with a shootout win for the Mutiny.
  • The pair of goals in stoppage time marked the sixth time two or more goals were scored in added time to gain a result, one shy of the record.
  • Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. VAN: P2 W1 L0 D1 … Martin Rennie vs. KC: first game

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

Vancouver Whitecaps FC return to action after seeing their season-opening unbeaten and shutout streaks come to an end, falling 3-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes on April 7 at Buck Shaw Stadium. Whitecaps FC are in seventh place in the Western Conference with 8 points from 5 games.

LAST MATCH

  • Whitecaps FC opened the scoring four minutes after the break, Eric Hassli posted up inside the box and played a pass back to Sebastien Le Toux off a throw-in, and Le Toux knocked it inside the far post.
  • Five minutes after the ‘Caps broke the MLS record for most minutes to start a season without conceding a goal, the Quakes pulled even. Chris Wondolowski got behind the Vancouver defense, held off defender Jay DeMerit, then ran onto a throw-in from left back Ramiro Corrales and chipped 'Caps goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

HIGHLIGHTS: SJ 3, Van 1

  • Then, in the 72nd minute, Corrales dialed a cross into the box, and second-half substitute Alan Gordon answered with a diving header to give San Jose the lead.
  • Wondolowski hammered the final nail into the coffin in the 78th minute. Tressor Moreno found the striker at the back post with a cross from a free kick, and Wondolowski simply redirected it into the net on the volley.
  • Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie made two changes to the team that played to a second successive goalless draw, against Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. Gershon Koffie and Eric Hassli returned to the side, in place of Matt Watson and the suspended Atiba Harris.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Lee Young-Pyo, Jay DeMerit, Martin Bonjour, Jordan Harvey - Davide Chiumiento, Gershon Koffie, Jun Marques Davidson (Camilo 76), John Thorrington (Matt Watson 79) - Sebastien Le Toux, Eric Hassli.

TEAM NEWS

  • Whitecaps FC saw their MLS club-record undefeated streak come to an end at four games.

GOAL: Le Toux fires home opening goal

  • “Second half, we obviously started the half very well, and got a good goal,” head coach Martin Rennie said. “From nowhere in a short space of time, we switched off and we’ve lost three goals and lost the game. In many ways, the difference was [Chris] Wondolowski scored two goals out of nothing, and that changed the game, in my opinion.”
  • Whitecaps FC saw their record-setting shutout streak to start a season ended at 426 minutes, five more than the New York Red Bulls achieved in 2007.
  • “It’s not something we can ignore,” goalkeeper Joe Cannon said. “We have to look at it and learn from it. We get paid to play this game, and I don’t think it’s smart to just throw anything under the rug, even if you win. We’re still in the early going here and I think we just have to look at that game for what it is and move on.”
  • After two games without scoring a goal — or hitting the net (Whitecaps FC were not credited with a single goal attempt on target in either scoreless draw vs. Philadelphia or D.C. United) — Vancouver was credited with six shots on goal vs. San Jose.
  • “I think tonight we played our best stuff,” captain Jay DeMerit said on Saturday. “We created the most chances and got forward the best we have all season. If we could combine the past few games we played defensively, and then combined with how we did offensively tonight, those are things we can take forward into [our next game].”
  • Sebastien Le Toux scored his second goal of the season, his first since netting just seconds into the season opener against Montreal. It was Vancouver’s first goal in 251 minutes ñ the third-longest streak without a goal thus far in MLS this season.
  • “We played better than I think all the games we played away [so far],” Le Toux said to Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410. “We found ourselves in a pretty good situation [going up 1-0], so I think things are getting better and better.”

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Sporting Kansas City extended their winning streak to start the 2012 season to six games, getting the game’s only goal in a victory against Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting have 18 points from 6 matches to lead the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The game's lone goal came after 63 minutes. Graham Zusi flighted in a corner from the left and Aurelien Collin slashed in at the back post to head it home. It was Collinís second goal of the year, both coming on headers off set-piece assists from Zusi.

GOAL: Collin heads home winning goal

  • SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was called upon to make just one save on the night, a routine stop of a Nat Borchers header from Kyle Beckerman’s free kick in second-half stoppage time that ended Sporting's league-record string of not allowing a shot on goal at 335 minutes.
  • Sporting head coach Peter Vermes made no changes to his team for a fourth match in a row, maintaining the side that defeated the LA Galaxy 1-0 at Livestrong Sporting Park.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic (Michael Harrington 89) - Julio Cesar (Paulo Nagamura 51), Roger Espinoza - Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi, Bobby Convey (Jacob Peterson 82) - C.J. Sapong.

TEAM NEWS

  • Sporting Kansas City is just the second club to have taken maximum points through six games ñ after the 1996 Los Angeles Galaxy, who won their first nine games in regulation time. The 1998 Galaxy also started with nine games unbeaten, but won the opener in a shootout (worth one point in the standings).
  • “At the end of the day, we found a way to get the goal in the second half. A fantastic three points for the guys,” said KC manager Peter Vermes. “Now we are going on a weeklong road trip. It won’t be easy but we have a good situation going right now and we have to keep it going.”

HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 1, RSL 0

  • Sporting faced one shot on goal: their first in 335 minutes (an MLS record). Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen has been called upon to make just eight saves in SKC’s first six games.
  • “I don’t think that I’ve seen anything like that before in my life. That’s credit to the whole organization and the team,” said Nielsen. “Our defense starts with C.J. (Sapong), and if he’s in good position, he’s making the midfielders job easy. And if the midfielders job is easy, that makes the defenders job easy. And if the defense is in good position, it makes my job very, very easy.”
     
  • Said Vermes: “Defensively, our back line was very attentive and concentrated. Collin and Besler did a very good job against their two central strikers and didn’t give them anything. The header at the end was actually offside, though the center official waved it off. They actually did not get a shot on goal.”
     
  • While extending their season-opening winning streak to seven games, Sporting Kansas City also lengthened their current shutout streak to 337 minutes, second in MLS this season (behind Vancouver’s 426).
  • “There are a lot of things that go into that (shot on goal) record: all 11 of us defending as a whole, applying pressure, even a little luck,” said defender Matt Besler. “The most important thing for us is the shutout streak. Shutting teams out gives us a chance to win every week.”
  • Sporting KC have scored three of their nine goals from set pieces. Two have come from corner kicks — both of the goals scored by Collin — and one on a free kick.
  • “It’s never an easy thing to score on a corner kick,” Vermes said. “Here’s the reason: You’re not only fighting a crowd. There’s a guy usually holding on to you. Maybe we’re the only ones who hold in games, but at the end of the day it’s not an easy thing.”
  • After seeing his five-game streak with an assist come to an end, Graham Zusi collected his sixth assist of the season in the 1-0 win against Real Salt Lake, giving him the MLS lead. “There’s four or five guys I can get it to on set pieces,” Zusi said. “Like I always say, I just try to put it in a dangerous spot, and those guys do the rest.”
  • After maintaining the same first XI since the New England game, Vermes could be forced into a change in Vancouver. Holding midfielder Julio Cesar was forced from the field early in the second half against RSL.
  • “I do not think it is a very serious pull. I think it is more of a strain. We will just evaluate him over the course of the next couple days and then we will make a decision but he’s a very important guy for the team,” said Vermes. “But at the same time, the biggest thing for me when we have muscle injuries is that we need to shut down a guy and wait until he is 100 percent to bring him back. I don’t think he will be ready for Wednesday, plus travel, so we will have to figure it out.”