Sporting Kansas City vs. Philadelphia Union | MLS Match Preview

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs PHILADELPHIA UNION
SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
Aug. 1, 2014 (WEEK 21, MLS Game #193)
7 p.m. CT (NBCSN, free stream on NBCSports.com, TSN2)

Sporting Kansas City return home and put their long winning streak on the line when they play host to Philadelphia Union on Friday evening at Sporting Park before an NBC Sports Network audience. Sporting extended their lead atop the Eastern Conference and MLS overall table with a fifth consecutive win away from home – and fourth in a row overall – last weekend with a 2-1 victory at Toronto FC. Union are riding a three-game undefeated streak of their own, coming back for another last draw with a 1-1 tie at the Chicago Fire in their last league match.

REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. AR1 (bench): Corey Rockwell; AR2 (opposite): Eric Boria; 4th: Sorin Stoica
MLS Career: 168 games; FC/gm: 23.4; Y/gm: 2.9; R: 33; pens: 49

SUSPENDED: KC: Matt Besler (through August 3)
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: KC: Paulo Nagamura
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Antonio Dovale, Benny Feilhaber, Eric Kronberg, Kevin Ellis, Dom Dwyer, Lawrence Olum, Seth Sinovic … PHI: Maurice Edu, Fabinho, Raymon Gaddis
DISABLED LIST: KC: Peterson Joseph, Ike Opara, Chance Myers
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (10 meetings): Sporting 4 wins, 12 goals … Union 3 wins, 13 goals … Ties 3
AT KANSAS CITY (5 meetings): Sporting 2 wins, 6 goals … Union 2 wins, 5 goals … Ties 1
FUTURE MATCH: 10/18: Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7 p.m. ET

2014 (MLS):
5/14: KC 1, PHI 2 (Dwyer 80 – Cruz 49; Maidana 81)

  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Cristian Maidana’s goal quickly answered a late Dom Dwyer and gave Union a 2-1 win, May 14 at Sporting Park.
  • Union have won just once in five all-time matches against Sporting at PPL Park, that win coming June 23, 2012. SKC won on their two visits to Chester last year; the first two meetings at PPL Park ended in draws.
  • Coaches record: Jim Curtin vs. KC: first game … Peter Vermes vs. PHI: P10 W4 L3 T3

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • Union took the lead four minutes after the break. Cristian Maidana skipped past a defender on the left and unleashed a shot that KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg could only parry in front of goal. Danny Cruz was quickest to the rebound and poked it into the back of the net.
  • Sporting drew even with 10 minutes to play. Dom Dwyer, who had come on as a 71st-minute substitute, played a one-two with Paulo Nagamura, firing the return pass into the top center of the goal from right on the edge of the area.
  • But barely a minute later, Union were back on top. After Andrew Wenger was able to control a loose ball in the SKC box, he played it square to Maidana, who turned home a shot while completely unmarked in the heart of the area for the eventual match-winner.
  • Union had to play shorthanded through second-half stoppage time, after late substitute Corben Bone drew a straight red card from referee Ricardo Salazar for a serious foul on Jacob Peterson just seconds after entering the match.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Eric Kronberg - Igor Juliao, Aurelien Collin (Lawrence Olum 61), Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Oriol Rosell - Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber - Sal Zizzo (Jacob Peterson 55), Claudio Bieler (Dom Dwyer 71), Graham Zusi.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Raymon Gaddis, Sheanon Williams, Austin Berry, Fabinho - Vincent Nogueira (Corben Bone 89; ejected 90), Amobi Okugo - Danny Cruz (Sebastien Le Toux 83), Leo Fernandes, Cristian Maidana (Aaron Wheeler 92+) - Andrew Wenger.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Sporting Kansas City extended their series of winning and undefeated streaks, coming back for a 2-1 win against Toronto FC on Saturday evening at BMO Field. Sporting lead the Eastern Conference with 38 points from 21 games.

LAST MATCH

  • The home side took the lead in the 16th minute. Dominic Oduro took a lovely first touch out of the air past a defender, then slipped a through ball to find Jackson rushing into the box, and he rounded SKC 'keeper Andy Gruenebaum before slotting home with ease.
  • But Sporting drew even just three minutes after the halftime break. After a scramble in the area saw the ball squirt out to the edge of the area, Graham Zusi latched onto it and curled the ball into an open net for the equalizer.
  • TFC were given a big leg up in the 75th minute when Oduro burst past KC defender Matt Besler and forced him into making a foul, one that saw the defender pick up his second yellow card of the night from referee Ted Unkel.
  • But SKC overcame the disadvantage to find the winner. A poor clearance attempt landed at the foot of Jacob Peterson, and he slotted home for the winner in the 80th minute.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that defeated the LA Galaxy 2-1 at Sporting Park. Mikey Lopez and C.J. Sapong came into the team in place of Soony Saad and Antonio Dovale.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Andy Gruenebaum - Igor Juliao, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler (ejected 75), Seth Sinovic (Kevin Ellis 55) - Lawrence Olum - Mikey Lopez (Jacob Peterson 77), Benny Feilhaber - C.J. Sapong (Soony Saad 71), Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi.

TEAM NEWS

  • Sporting won their fifth consecutive game away from home with the victory against Toronto FC. It matches the club’s longest road winning streak and is the longest in MLS since 2005, when San Jose won five straight away games. The MLS record is seven road wins in a row, set in 1997 by the LA Galaxy and in 1999 by D.C. United.
  • “These are huge, huge points on the road,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said, “especially given the fact that Toronto has games in hand. We've always said in the past, when we've been in that position, that those games don't mean anything unless you get the points. So these were huge, huge points for us in a game like this – with the kind of firepower they brought in this year, the kind of investments they made, it's huge on our part.”
  • It was also Sporting’s fourth consecutive win overall, the club’s longest since winning nine in a row over the end of the 2011 season and the start of 2012.
  • SKC also extended their overall undefeated run to seven matches (6-0-1), their last league loss coming in a 1-0 defeat at D.C. United on May 31. It’s the club’s longest unbeaten run since going 13 games without defeat over the end of 2012 and start of 2013.
  • “You have to know what you are going after. Last year the thing that really resonated with our team was that if you put yourself in a good position towards the end of the season in the table and through the playoffs, there is a chance of home advantage in the MLS Cup Final. That notion is a very big carry at the end of the year,” said Vermes.
  • Graham Zusi scored his first goal in MLS play since March 29, when he netted against Colorado. Zusi started in a forward role vs. TFC, after playing in the midfield in the previous match, his second start following his return from the FIFA World Cup.
  • Making his fourth consecutive start following his return from the FIFA World Cup, Matt Besler was sent off with a quarter-hour to play and will miss out on the Philadelphia match. It was the second consecutive match where SKC had a center back sent off, after Aurelien Collin was ejected late in the LA Galaxy match.
  • “We're actually going to start the next game down a man,” Vermes joked. “We're just going to play a 4-4-1. That's what we're going to do, going forward.”
  • There was also an injury-forced change in the second half when left back Seth Sinovic had to come off after suffering a right groin strain in the 55th minute.
  • “It is difficult to come into a place like this and get points when it is 11 vs. 11 and more importantly when you lose a man,” said Vermes. “It just goes to show that not only is the experience starting to come out, that strong mentality of you might bend me a little but you aren’t going to break me. Guys are showing that here, a lot of the young guys were getting experience early as we were missing so many guys, are now contributing and helping us get points.”

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Philadelphia Union return to league action after a weekend away, reaching a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire in their last match, July 19 at Toyota Park. Union are in a tie for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 23 points from 21 games.

LAST MATCH

  • The Fire took the lead in 60th minute. Harry Shipp put in a corner from the right and Jeff Larentowicz freed himself for a clear header from the heart of the box.
  • But the match turned in stoppage time. A speculative volley from Sebastien Le Toux at the top of the box hit Gonzalo Segares on the upper part of his right arm, and referee Geoff Gamble awarded a spot kick. Le Toux made no mistake with the ensuing penalty and Union came away with a crucial point from the road.
  • Union interim manager Jim Curtin made three changes to the team that defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-1 at PPL Park. Danny Cruz, Amobi Okugo and Michael Lahoud all came into the midfield, replacing Brian Carroll, Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-4-2): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Ethan White, Maurice Edu, Raymon Gaddis (Brian Brown 81) - Danny Cruz (Andrew Wenger 61), Amobi Okugo (Fred 69), Michael Lahoud, Vincent Nogueira - Conor Casey, Sebastien Le Toux

TEAM NEWS

  • Union extended their modest undefeated streak to three games (1-0-2) with the late draw at Chicago, having lost just once in five games since Jim Curtin took charge on an interim basis.
  • “Any time you get a goal in the 89th minute, you’re happy with that. You take the point and you move on,” said Curtin. “Again, disappointed that we gave up a goal because I didn’t think in the run of play that we didn’t give up a whole lot of chances. I thought we were organized, we created enough to score ourselves but I am proud of our guys. They fought hard, third game in the week. It is a good result on the road.”
  • Sebastien Le Toux scored his eighth goal of the season, converting a penalty kick in stoppage time. Le Toux has scored five goals in the last six games, five of those coming as a starter since he was installed into the lineup by Curtin.
  • With Union, Le Toux is now 11-for-11 from the penalty spot in league matches. He has scored 36 goals in four seasons with Philadelphia. The last two goals scored by Union have been Le Toux penalties.
  • “It’s good. I’m lucky because of penalty kicks this year, I scored some of those, but to score for the team, it’s good, and I hope to continue score, and I just want us to win games. If I score, I think it’s a good thing,” said Le Toux.
  • The lone goal conceded by Union came from a corner kick. Union have now allowed eight goals from set pieces from 35 total goals allowed, tied for the most in MLS (along with Real Salt Lake).
  • “It’s something we’ve kind of harped on and [needing to] improve our set pieces defensively. We have given up too many goals on that.  So we will look at the tape but it was a free header from Larentowicz,” said Curtin. “I don’t know if there was a pick or anything, but guys got to fight through and communicate, or change guys, or sort it out quicker. It was such a free header that Jeff got a lot on it and you’d like to see someone jump with him.”
  • Amobi Okugo returned to the lineup after a one-match absence, again playing in a central midfield role with Maurice Edu returning to central defense.
  • Michael Lahoud also returned to the team after a one-match absence, while Brian Brown made his MLS debut, coming on for the final nine minutes.
  • “Third match in eight days but we also had some build in rest with some red cards with our team so we had fresh legs in the center of the field,” said Curtin. “That was the idea for the day. We were organized, we didn’t give up a lot of chances in the run of play.”
  • In their week away from league play, Union played Crystal Palace FC of the English Premier League, falling 1-0 with the lone goal coming on an own goal.
  • Here’s the Union team: Andre Blake, Fabinho, Austin Berry (Michael Lahoud 73’), Ethan White (Pedro Ribeiro 46’), Raymon Gaddis (Sheanon Williams 46’), Maurice Edu (Brian Carroll 73’), Vincent Nogueira (Amobi Okugo 46’), Fred (Corbin Bone 46’), Danny Cruz (Aaron Wheeler 46’), Andrew Wenger (Sebastien Le Toux 46’), Brian Brown (Antoine Hoppenot 73’)
  • On Wednesday, Union announced the acquisition of Algerian international goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi. The 28-year-old Mbolhi led Algeria to the knockout round of the FIFA World Cup for the first time in his country’s history in Brazil.