Preview: Lowly Toronto look to turn season around vs SKC

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs TORONTO FC
LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
June 16, 2012 (WEEK 15, MLS Game #128)
8:30 p.m. ET (KSMO; GolTV Can)

Sporting Kansas City play host to a new-look Toronto FC on Saturday evening at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting are coming off a 2-1 home win against San Jose in their last league game, having also qualified for the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup. TFC are playing their first game under the direction of Paul Mariner, who took over for Aron Winter after the club put an end to its nine-game losing streak to start the campaign with a 1-0 home win against Philadelphia Union on May 26.

REFEREE: Paul Ward. SAR (bench): Philippe Briere; JAR (opposite): Marco Arruda; 4th: Leszek Stalmach
MLS Career: 33 games; FC/gm: 23.2; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 11; pens: 7

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INJURY REPORT: SPORTING KANSAS CITY – OUT: MF Korede Aiyegbusi (R knee sprain); DF Matt Besler (appendicitis); DF Cyprian Hedrick (L fibula fracture); GK Eric Kronberg (lower back strain); MF Luke Sassano (L knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Bobby Convey (R calf strain); MF Paulo Nagamura (R abductor strain); FW Jacob Peterson (R ankle sprain) … TORONTO FC – OUT: DF Ty Harden (R adductor strain); FW Nicholas Lindsay (L knee surgery recovery); GK Stefan Frei (L lower leg); QUESTIONABLE: DF Aaron Maund (R eye hyphema); DF Dicoy Williams (R knee surgery recovery); DF Logan Emory (shoulder subluxation)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: KC: Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone)
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: TOR: Julian de Guzman
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (12 meetings): Sporting 5 wins, 14 goals … Toronto FC 3 wins, 9 goals … Ties 4
AT KC (6 meetings): Sporting 4 wins, 13 goals … Toronto FC 1 win, 6 goals … Ties 1
RETURN MATCHES: 8/18: Toronto FC vs. Sporting Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. ET; 9/1: Sporting Kansas City vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. CT

LAST YEAR (MLS):
6/4: TOR 0, KC 0
7/23: KC 4, TOR 2 (Kamara 28, 33; Bravo 37, 64 – Koevermans 50; Johnson 72)
• Sporting have won the last two home meetings with TFC, including a 4-2 win last year in the first encounter at Livestrong Sporting Park.
• TFC haven’t lost to KC at home since 2007, when the then-Wizards came away with a 1-0 win in the first ever game at BMO Field on April 28. Toronto FC have won two of their five home meetings since, with three draws.
• Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. TOR: P4 W2 L0 D2 … Paul Mariner v KC: first game

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City return to league action after putting a halt to their winless streak at four games, when in their last match they came away with a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting have 25 points from 12 matches and now sit in third place in the Eastern Conference.
LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: Philly on tough San Jose test

• Sporting took the lead after just five minutes. Kei Kamara took a pass from Graham Zusi on the right flank and drove the ball into the area. C.J. Sapong slid in at the back post and slammed a left-footer first time into the back of the net.
• SKC doubled the margin in the 39th minute. Right back Chance Myers drove across the field and releasing an overlapping Michael Harrington on the left. Harrington cut back and fired a picture-perfect cross that Kamara nodded down and past Quakes ’keeper Jon Busch.
• The Earthquakes pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute. Simon Dawkins took a headed pass from Ramiro Corrales, turned and dribbled to just outside the penalty area. Given space at the top of the box, he looped his shot just out of reach of a diving Jimmy Nielsen.
• Sporting head coach Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that was pegged back for a 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Roger Espinoza came into the midfield for Paulo Nagamura, and C.J. Sapong started out wide for Bobby Convey.
• SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic (Michael Harrington 23) - Roger Espinoza (Paulo Nagamura 90), Julio Cesar (Lawrence Olum 74) - Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi, C.J. Sapong - Teal Bunbury.
TEAM NEWS
• Sporting ended a four-game league winless run with the win against San Jose, the club’s first since April 18, the last of seven consecutive victories to start the season.
• “I thought we put them under a lot of pressure and created a lot of chances. We showed an action at halftime where we won the ball and switched the point of attack, and we had the ball in the box and we had four players inside the box. A lot of times you’re hoping to get three, and most teams settle for two, but we had four so we were very hungry to get there,” said KC manager Peter Vermes. “We had good field position over the course of the game. Those guys were all hungry to get in front of the goal. Realistically, we should have scored a few more goals.”
• C.J. Sapong netted his first goal since April 1, when he scored his third goal in four games to start the season. Sapong returned to the team in place of Bobby Convey, sidelined with a calf injury.
• Kei Kamara netted his first goal since April 18, his team-leading fifth of the campaign. “Being frustrated was definitely not about me scoring goals,” Kamara said. “It was about how the way I was contributing to help the team. I didn’t feel like I did as much. If we’d have been getting the points, I wouldn’t have minded as much. But when I got that goal, it felt good.”
• “No matter what, we’re going to have to use a bunch of guys,” Vermes said. “My thing is just being able to manage when those guys are all returning, which trips they should be on and which games they should play in. That’ll be a little bit game-to-game because right now, we’re close to just an 18-man roster at the moment. So it’s not like I have a lot of decisions to make. It’s when those guys start returning, it’s how to use them all the way through.”

WATCH: Sporting KC back in action after break

• Whether Kamara will be able to figure against Toronto FC is also in question, depending on his return from international duty in Africa after playing for Sierra Leone. The day before the TFC match, Sierra Leone face a crunch qualifier against Sao Tome & Principe.
• “At the end of the day, it’s up to [coach Vermes], and I’m going to work hard at whatever he asks me to do,” said Jacob Peterson, who filled Kamara’s place in U.S. Open Cup win against the Colorado Rapids. “It’s all of our jobs to make it a tough decision for Pete, all those guys who are on the bench and who are fighting to get into the 18. If we do that, it’s healthy competition.”
• Sporting will be without center back Matt Besler,possibly for the next few weeks, after he underwent surgery for appendicitis.
• Teal Bunbury now has three goals in his last three games in all competitions. “I’m in that groove,” Bunbury said. “Sometimes strikers get in that groove but the ultimate goal for me is to try to work hard on the field. The goals are things off the ball as well, working defensively and getting in good positions, things to help out the rest of the team.”
• Sporting have advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. In their third-round tie, Soony Saad scored twice and Paulo Nagamura added a third in a 3-0 win against USL PRO Orlando City.
• Here’s the SKC team: Jon Kempin; Chance Myers, Konrad Warzycha (Matt Besler 85), Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic; Paulo Nagamura, Lawrence Olum, Peterson Joseph (Graham Zusi 59); Jacob Peterson, Dom Dwyer (C.J. Sapong 46), Soony Saad
• Then in the fourth round, an own goal and Teal Bunbury’s strike gave Sporting a 2-0 win against the Colorado Rapids in all-MLS tie.
• Here’s the Sporting team: Jimmy Nielsen; Seth Sinovic, Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler; Julio Cesar, Peterson Joseph (Lawrence Olum 73), Graham Zusi; C.J. Sapong, Teal Bunbury, Jacob Peterson (Soony Saad 73)

 

TORONTO FC
Toronto FC ended their MLS-record season-opening losing streak at nine games, getting a late goal for a 1-0 win against Philadelphia Union in their last match, May 26 at BMO Field. TFC is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, with three points from 10 games.
LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: TOR 1, PHI 0

• The game's lone goal came two minutes from full time. Nick Soolsma found second-half substitute Danny Koevermans just outside the left side of the post after some determined work down the wing. Koevermans' first effort was stopped by goalkeeper Chris Konopka, but the Dutchman muscled home the rebound from close range.
• TFC head coach Aron Winter made two changes to the team that lost to D.C. United 3-1 at RFK Stadium. Luis Silva and Torsten Frings came into the team in place of Terry Dunfield and Eric Avila.
• TORONTO FC (4-3-3): Milos Kocic - Jeremy Hall, Doneil Henry, Adrian Cann, Ashtone Morgan - Luis Silva (Nick Soolsma 70), Torsten Frings, Julian de Guzman - Reggie Lambe (Richard Eckersley 54), Ryan Johnson, Joao Plata (Danny Koevermans 63).
TEAM NEWS
• The victory snapped Toronto FC’s nine-game losing streak, the longest ever to start an MLS season, and tied for fourth-longest in the MLS annals. The MLS record for a losing streak is 12 in a row, set in 1999 by the MetroStars.
• “I had a very good feeling, the boys also, from the first minute when we started the game. The way we were playing, how we came through the final third of the opponent and also how we played with possession,” TFC head coach and technical director Aron Winter. “I was not afraid but nine games and no points where you create a lot of opportunities and you don’t score you are at least hoping that you can get a point.
• The game turned out to be the final in charge for Winter. Paul Mariner took over the head coaching duties on June 7. “All it is is minor adjustments,” Mariner said. “It really is. It’s not a massive overhaul.”
• After missing three games to injury, Danny Koevermans has now scored in back-to-back games for TFC, both after coming off the bench in a substitute role.
• “Every time I come on, I try to do my job,” Koevermans said. “I had an injury and I think it’s kind of normal that you don’t start."
• While Winter rarely deviated from a 4-3-3 tactical scheme, Mariner said his side will show a lot of flexibility.
• “To me, it’s whatever works,” Mariner said. “I’ve played in different systems. I’ve played with some unbelievable managers. Bobby Robson came up with a 4-3-1-2 that nobody else had ever thought about. It’s all about players, it’s all about putting players in the right position to succeed. That’s my basic coaching philosophy. I want to put people with the right abilities, I want to put people with the right skill set, in the right positions and that’s it."

WATCH: Mariner discusses Toronto moving forward

• While the win was the first in league play, it was the third in five games (along with one draw) in all competitions.
• “[After] the wins we had against Vancouver and Philadelphia, I think we have a little more confidence now,” said midfielder Torsten Frings. “The break was good for us. Now everybody’s fresh. Paul is a great guy. He wants us to have fun at the pitch and you could see it today. I think it’s very important for us that we have fun.”
• While of course it was the first shutout in league play, it was also the fourth in the five-game stretch over all competitions.
• "We had a lot of possession, a lot of good chances, and you knew it was coming," center back Doneil Henry said. "As a defender, it kind of takes the pressure off you a little bit because we were playing solid for 90 minutes. As soon as that goal went in, it was a relief."