Sporting Kansas City vs. Toronto FC | MLS Match Preview

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs TORONTO FC
TOYOTA PARK, Bridgeview, Ill.
May 23, 2014 (WEEK 12, MLS Game #105)
7:30 p.m. CT (UDN; KMCI-38; TSN2)
MLS Free Stream of the Week

An intriguing matchup of Eastern Conference sides kicks off the MLS weekend as Sporting Kansas City play host to Toronto FC on Friday evening at Sporting Park. SKC come into the game still holding onto second place in the division, but after successive defeats, last at the Chicago Fire. TFC put an end to their three-game losing slide last weekend with a 2-0 home win against New York, five points behind KC but with three fewer matches played.

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Corey Parker; 4th: Younes Marrakchi
MLS Career: 171 games; FC/gm: 25.3; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 60; pens: 63

SUSPENDED: KC: Erik Palmer-Brown (through May 25)
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Benny Feilhaber … TOR: Jackson
DISABLED LIST: KC: Peterson Joseph, Ike Opara
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: KC: Graham Zusi, Matt Besler (USA); Lawrence Olum (Kenya) … TOR: Michael Bradley (USA); Julio Cesar (BRA)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (18 meetings): Sporting 10 wins, 25 goals … Toronto FC 4 wins, 13 goals … Ties 4
AT KC (9 meetings): Sporting 7 wins, 20 goals … Toronto FC 1 win, 7 goals … Ties 1
RETURN MATCHES: 7/26: Toronto FC vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7 p.m. ET; 8/16: Sporting Kansas City vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. CT

LAST YEAR (MLS)
3/9: TOR 2, KC 1 (Earnshaw 3, 21 – Bieler 77)
7/13: KC 3, TOR 0 (Saad 21, 51; Bieler 63)
9/21: TOR 1, KC 2 (Russell 38 – Sapong 18, 53)

• SKC has never lost to TFC at Sporting Park, winning all four meetings between the teams there since the ground opened in 2011. TFC’s last win in Kansas City came March 21, 2009, a 3-2 victory at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

• Over the last four seasons, Toronto FC have defeated Sporting KC just once in five meetings at BMO Field, that coming in a 2-1 victory last March 9.

• Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. TOR: P10 W7 L1 T2 … Ryan Nelsen vs. KC: P3 W1 L2 T0

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Sporting Kansas City suffered their second consecutive loss, falling 2-1 to the Chicago Fire on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park. Sporting sit in a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference with 17 points from 11 games.

LAST MATCH

• The Fire got off to a perfect start Quincy Amarikwa was taken down in the box as he rounded goalkeeper Eric Kronberg following a precise through ball from Harry Shipp. Mike Magee stepped up to take the resulting penalty and kept his nerve superbly to roll the ball into the bottom left corner.

• The home side then doubled their lead eight minutes later when debutant Erik Palmer-Brown shoved Benji Joya in the back just inside the area. Magee got his second chance from 12 yards and slotted home to the same side to double the Fire advantage.

• Sporting were a man when Palmer-Brown's debut ended early, in the 64th minute, after being shown a second yellow card for a late, sliding challenge on Amarikwa at midfield.

• The visitors pulled a goal back in the 68th minute when Dom Dwyer found himself unmarked at the far post to power in Benny Feilhaber's free kick from the right wing, but that would be all the joy SKC would find on the day.

• Sporting manager Peter Vermes made five changes to the team that fell 2-1 to Philadelphia Union at Sporting Park. Chance Myers, Erik Palmer-Brown, Jacob Peterson, Antonio Dovale and Dom Dwyer all came into the team, in place of Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Oriol Rosell, Sal Zizzo and Graham Zusi.

• SPORTING KANSAS CITY (3-3-2-2): Eric Kronberg - Chance Myers, Erik Palmer-Brown (ejected 64), Seth Sinovic - Jacob Peterson (Soony Saad 84), Paulo Nagamura, Igor Juliao - Benny Feilhaber, Antonio Dovale (Alex Martinez 71) - Claudio Bieler (Kevin Ellis 67), Dom Dwyer.

TEAM NEWS

• Sporting have dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season, the first time since last Aug. 18-23, when they suffered consecutive 1-0 defeats at San Jose and Chicago.

• “We had quite a few chances at the end.  We were in and around their [defensive zone] more than they were in ours, and we were taking the chances. We were leaving ourselves a little exposed,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “I thought the guys did a great job, especially in the second half. As we well know, the MLS season is very long and we’ll be competitive, that’s for sure.”

• The Defoe goal was also the first allowed by SKC in the first half this season, their first conceded in the opening 45 minutes since last Oct. 5 vs. Philadelphia, a span of 14 matches.

• Erik Palmer-Brown made his MLS debut at 17 years of age – the youngest defender to start a game in league history.

• “Obviously, this was not the easiest of situations,” Vermes said. “Unfortunately, it is what it is, and sometimes you get baptized by getting thrown into the fire. He did a little bit. I thought in a lot of situations he was actually very good. But it was about him getting his debut. It put a lot of pressure on him today to have to come in and step in, and I thought he did a lot with the opportunity.”

• Palmer-Brown was the only natural center back available in the Sporting squad. Matt Besler and Lawrence Olum were called into the national teams of the USA and Kenya respectively, Aurelien Collin was sidelined by a recurring hamstring strain, and Ike Opara is out after season-ending ankle surgery.

• “You have to deal with adversity. I think it’s better to deal with it early on in the season rather than at the end of the season, based on the fact that then you know how to deal with it,” Vermes said. “We are in a difficult position at the moment based on our central defender situation. It has forced us to change a little bit in our formation, stuff like that. But at the same time, I think the team did well.”

• With the lack of central defenders, Vermes lined out his team with three defenders, nominal fullbacks Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic also playing centrally in the back line. Jacob Peterson and Igor Juliao filled wide midfield roles.

• “It's a little bit of a challenge for the group, but we've got more than enough guys that have capabilities of playing the game. We'll figure out some concoction,” Vermes said.

• Claudio Bieler and Dom Dwyer formed the strike partnership for the first time ever with Sporting, simply together on the field for the first time with the club.

TORONTO FC

Toronto FC put an end to their three-game losing streak in impressive fashion, defeating the New York Red Bulls 2-0 on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. TFC sit in a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, with 12 points from 8 matches.

LAST MATCH

• TFC took the lead in the 12th minute. From a lightning-quick counter, Bradley Orr slid a perfectly-weighted through ball into the path of Jermain Defoe, and he cracked a rocket of a shot into the top corner of the net, beating Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.

• Well into second-half stoppage time Toronto FC finished off the match thanks to a fortuitous bounce. A long clearance from Joe Bendik from his own penalty area was not claimed by Robles as he collided with a teammate at the top of the Red Bulls box, and Luke Moore walked the ball into the open goal to open his TFC account.

• TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen made four changes to the team that suffered a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution at BMO Field. Joseph Bendik came in between the posts, and Nick Hagglund, Alvaro Rey and Bradley Orr all came into the team, with Michael Bradley on international duty and Julio Cesar, Doneil Henry and Jackson out of the team.

• TORONTO FC (4-4-2): Joseph Bendik - Mark Bloom, Nick Hagglund, Steven Caldwell, Justin Morrow - Alvaro Rey (Daniel Lovitz 68), Bradley Orr, Kyle Bekker, Jonathan Osorio - Jermain Defoe, Gilberto (Luke Moore 56).

TEAM NEWS

• Toronto FC put an end their losing slide after three matches, the club’s longest since losing five in a row last April 27-May 25.

• Jermain Defoe netted his first goal since March 22 – when he scored his third goal in his first two MLS games – after he was named as an alternate to the England squad for the FIFA World Cup.

• “It’s only normal when you get a disappointment to try to prove people wrong, and just to remind people, at the end of the day, this is what I’m doing,” Defoe said. “I think I did that today. I think that’s a job well done.”

• Luke Moore made his TFC debut after being acquired from Chivas USA via Colorado, and scored his first MLS goal in his seventh appearance in the league.

• “I think any striker would take three or four of those a season. I kind of gambled and got out of the way a little bit and was lucky it dropped into my path,” Moore said. “You just say a little thank you to the gods. It’s a bit of a gift. You’ve got to be there to put it in so I was happy with it. It was a great little gift for me.”

• With Julio Cesar about to join the Brazil national team in preparation for the FIFA World Cup, Joe Bendik recorded his first shutout of the season, the third in 2014 for TFC.

• After featuring in the back four for each of his previous four starts, Bradley Orr was moved into the center of midfield and recorded his first MLS start on the opening goal.

• “We just needed some balance. We were always going to the get the chances at BMO with the quality of players that we have up top,” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen said. “And I just thought we needed that defensive balance that kind of screens Henry and Wright-Phillips, so nothing can really get into their feet ... It was a defensive move that was hoping to be a kind of offensive move. But Brad amongst many was superb and played really well.

• Nick Hagglund came back into the team for his second start in MLS, playing in central defense. “Doneil just played 120 minutes, he had a sore quad and he got a bit of a head knock and just felt like he needed a rest,” Nelsen said. “Nick deserved his chance and in this game you have to take those chances.”

• The day before the New York match, there was a major trade between Toronto FC and the Montréal Impact, with TFC receiving Collen Warner in exchange for Issey Nakajima-Farran and allocation money.

• “I feel sorry for Issey because we brought him in and he’s done nothing wrong,” Nelsen said. “Unfortunately, when we have all our players back, it would be hard to see him starting on the team whereas with Collen, he’ll start. He’s a starting player and he hasn’t even come to his peak in age. He’s a guy that we targeted and glad he’s going to be walking through the door.”