Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City | MLS Match Preview
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs SPORTING KANSAS CITY
PPL PARK, Chester, Pa.
Oct. 26, 2013 (WEEK 35, MLS Game #316)
3 p.m. ET (NBC SN)
Philadelphia Union conclude their 2013 MLS home season with the slimmest of chances still alive to gain a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs, facing a Sporting Kansas City still aiming for a Supporters’ Shield, as the Eastern Conference clubs face off Saturday afternoon at PPL Park. Union need a win – and some help – to clinch a postseason berth following their 2-1 loss at Montreal last weekend. Sporting can still clinch the best overall record in MLS with a win and New York’s failure to win on Sunday, coming off a 1-0 home win against D.C. United last week.
REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. AR1 (bench): Kermit Quisenberry; AR2 (opposite): Corey Parker; 4th: Silviu Petrescu
MLS Career: 165 games; FC/gm: 25.1; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 60; pens: 61
DISABLED LIST: PHI: Greg Jordan
SUSPENDED: PHI: Brian Carroll (caution accumulation; through Oct. 27)
FINED NEXT YELLOW CARD: PHI: Conor Casey, Danny Cruz, Jack McInerney … KC: Claudio Bieler, Benny Feilhaber, Peterson Joseph, Lawrence Olum, Seth Sinovic
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
ALL-TIME (8 meetings): Union 2 wins, 9 goals … Sporting 3 wins, 9 goals … Ties 3
AT PPL PARK (4 meetings): Union 1 win, 7 goals … Sporting 1 win, 4 goals … Ties 2
3/2: PHI 2, KC 3 (Le Toux 17 – Zusi 41; Rosell 66; Bieler 83)
9/27: KC 0, PHI 1 (Casey 36)
- The teams are meeting for the third time this season. Conor Casey scored the game’s only goal in a Union victory Sept. 27 at Sporting Park. Graham Zusi scored one goal and set up two others as Sporting Kansas City took a 3-1 win at PPL Park in the season opener on March 2.
- The road team has won both meetings this season, the first wins all-time by a road team in the series.
- Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. PHI: P8 W3 L2 D3 … John Hackworth vs. KC: P4 W2 L2 D0
- The game's lone goal came in the 36th minute. From a scrum in the Sporting penalty area, goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was able to block Michael Farfan's shot from close range. But the ball fell to Conor Casey for a point-blank putaway from the rebound into the center of the goal.
- Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath finished with five saves, including three big stops in the first half, two of them of the acrobatic variety.
- SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Ike Opara, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic - Oriol Rosell - Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber (Peterson Joseph 75) - Jacob Peterson (Soony Saad 46), Dom Dwyer (Claudio Bieler 66), C.J. Sapong.
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams (Jack McInerney 83), Jeff Parke, Amobi Okugo, Raymon Gaddis - Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll - Danny Cruz (Sebastien Le Toux 58), Michael Farfan, Fabinho - Conor Casey (Aaron Wheeler 67).
Philadelphia Union saw their undefeated run come to an end after three games, falling 2-1 to the Montreal Impact on Saturday afternoon at Stade Saputo. Union are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 46 points from 33 matches.
- Union seized the lead in the 29th minute. Kleberson’s tremendous through ball found Fabinho’s run on the left, which was followed by an accurate, powerful finish from an acute angle into the roof of the net.
- But the Impact found a breakthrough in the 64th minute. Davy Arnaud played a short pass behind him to Marco Di Vaio, who turned on a Union defender and curled a shot with his right foot, the ball bouncing off a defender but still finding the back of the net to level the score.
- Then in the 84th minute, Impact winger Justin Mapp took a free kick which ultimately reached a wide-open Karl W. Ouimette at the far post, and the youngster’s header hit bodies along the way but somehow trickled past Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath for the winner.
- Union team manager John Hackworth made three changes to the team that reached a 1-1 draw with D.C. United at RFK Stadium. Sheanon Williams came back from suspension, along with Jack McInerney and Fabinho back into the team, in place of Sebastien Le Toux, Keon Daniel and the suspended Michael Farfan.
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-4-2): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Jeff Parke, Amobi Okugo, Raymon Gaddis (Roger Torres 88) - Danny Cruz (Leo Fernandes 76), Jose Kleberson, Brian Carroll, Fabinho - Conor Casey, Jack McInerney (Antoine Hoppenot 67).
- Union lost for the first time since Sept. 14, and in the process saw their playoff ambitions all but put to an end. They can only reach fifth place in the Eastern Conference – and only with a win and both New England and Houston failing to win, plus the right combinations of scorelines.
- “If we are still mathematically alive next weekend, we will put everything we have into it,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “We will put everything we have into it, no matter what. But tonight, especially in the second half, was our opportunity. And we let ourselves down.”
- It was the first time this season Union had lost a game after leading at halftime. It was also just the second time they were defeated after scoring the opening goal.
- “This was a playoff game before the playoffs,” Hackworth said. “Both of us had to win tonight. Our expectation was we were going to come in and get the victory. We did a good job in the first half. We didn’t finish it off in the end.”
- Said Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath: “Giving up two goals like that is unlucky for us – we have to do better. We should’ve tried to get a better control of the game in the second half because I thought we played a very solid first half. It should have been us dictating the game ourselves and not [Montreal] dictating that last 45 minutes.”
- Fabinho scored his first MLS goal, playing the full match on the left side of midfield. He returned to the lineup after missing the D.C. United match through suspension.
- For a second consecutive match, Jose Kleberson recorded an assist. He has been involved in each of Union’s last three goals, over the last three matches, with a goal and two assists.
- “We played a good first half,” said Union forward Conor Casey. “But in the second half, they threw numbers forward and made it tough. I did think we had a couple of decent chances in the second half, as well. We just weren’t able to put one away.”
- Said Hackworth: “They came out with a lot of energy in the second half and really pushed the game. Honestly, they were pretty good in the second half and got the equalizer and kept pushing after that. We did not do a good job dealing with it.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City extended their undefeated and shutout streaks, defeating D.C. United 1-0 on Friday evening at Sporting Park. Sporting are in second place in the Eastern Conference with 55 points from 33 matches.
- The game's only goal came after just seven minutes. Under pressure, United defender Perry Kitchen sent a slow back pass toward his own goal. Dom Dwyer raced to intercept, rounded United 'keeper Bill Hamid and put his shot into the open net.
- Sporting manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that reached a scoreless draw with the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. Matt Besler came into central defense in place of Aurelien Collin, and Benny Feilhaber started in midfield for Lawrence Olum.
- SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-1-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Oriol Rosell, Benny Feilhaber (Graham Zusi 46) - Peterson Joseph (Lawrence Olum 58) - C.J. Sapong, Dom Dwyer (Claudio Bieler 78), Soony Saad.
- Sporting can still claim the MLS Supporters’ Shield, emblematic of the best overall record in the regular season, with a victory and a New York Red Bulls loss or draw vs. Chicago.
- “It's not easy playing anyone in this league, and when you go up against a team that has absolutely nothing to lose at this time of the year, it's never an easy game,” said SKC manager Peter Vermes. “There's no doubt this wasn't one of our best performances of the year, but at the end of the day we found a way to win, get three points, and keep the pressure on the other teams.”
- Sporting recorded their third consecutive shutout in the win vs. United, and have now not allowed a goal in 324 minutes, the fourth-longest streak in MLS this season. SKC has the longest – a 546-minute streak from March 9-April 20 that included five consecutive shutouts.
- “We were focused from the opening whistle,” defender Matt Besler said. “Tonight was not a pretty game of soccer. There were a few instances where we got some things together. For the most part, it was a battle. It was a grind. The ball was lively today with the rain. I thought we did a good job reacting and not giving up a goal.”
- Jimmy Nielsen recorded his 13th clean sheet in league play, tied for the MLS lead with Portland’s Donovan Ricketts heading into the final week of the season.
- “That’s the kind of save that you respect and want your goalkeeper to keep you in the game,” Vermes said. “He has the ability to make himself really big. Guys have a difficulty of finding a goal and they usually miss. Credit to him, because that kept our three points.”
- Nielsen also holds a 0.88 goals against average heading into the final league match. If he concedes four goals or fewer vs. Philadelphia, it will be the second time in as many seasons he has allowed less than a goal per game over the course of a season.
- Dom Dwyer scored his second league goal for SKC, the first of his career coming Aug. 3. Dwyer has two goals and two assists over the 11 games since that first goal; he’s made five consecutive starts in MLS matches.
- “We have a great team, so I'm always going to get opportunities and chances. When they come I just need to finish them off. Our final ball wasn't quite there tonight and certain things didn't fall our way,” Dwyer said. “But like I said, we got the job done. We'll take this momentum into Wednesday. It's always good to get the ball in the next, but more importantly we won the game.”
- Benny Feilhaber made his first start in the SKC midfield since Sept. 27, missing the last two matches. He played 45 minutes before coming off for Graham Zusi, who returned to the team after missing the Houston match while on international duty.
- “We weren't on tonight like we normally are. But like I said, given the fact that we've had many great performances and come up short quite a few times, it's nice to have the opportunity to walk away with something even though you didn't perform as well,” Vermes said.
- On Wednesday, Sporting secured their passage to the knockout stage of the CONCACAF Champions League following a scoreless draw with CD Olimpia of Honduras at Sporting Park.
- Here’s the Sporting team: Eric Kronberg; Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler (c), Seth Sinovic; Oriol Rosell, Lawrence Olum, Graham Zusi; Jacob Peterson (Josh Gardner 92+), Teal Bunbury (Dom Dwyer 79), C.J. Sapong
- “Being that this is the first time the club has advanced into this international competition, it was a major goal of ours this year, so I think we're extremely pleased that we've advanced to the knockout stage and we'll start preparing now for next year,” said Vermes.