Sporting Kansas City vs. Toronto FC | MLS Match Preview

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs TORONTO FC
SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
Aug. 16, 2014 (WEEK 23, MLS Game #216)
7:30 p.m. CT (KMCI-38; TSN2; MLSsoccer.com Stream of the Week)

Sporting Kansas City and Toronto FC meet for a third time this season when the Eastern Conference clubs look to maintain their lofty positions as they face off Saturday evening at Sporting Park. Sporting still lead the division, despite seeing their long undefeated run put to an end in a 2-0 loss at Vancouver last Sunday. Toronto FC are in third in the East as they chase a first MLS Cup Playoffs spot in club history, winning a second consecutive game in a 3-2 win at the Columbus Crew last weekend.

REFEREE: Drew Fischer. AR1 (bench): Claudio Badea; AR2 (opposite): James Conlee; 4th: Kevin Terry Jr.
MLS Career: 34 games; FC/gm: 26.6; Y/gm: 3.1; R: 3; pens: 9

SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: KC: Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber, Paulo Nagamura … TOR: Michael Bradley
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Antonio Dovale, Eric Kronberg, Kevin Ellis, Lawrence Olum, Seth Sinovic … TOR: Steven Caldwell, Jackson, Justin Morrow, Dominic Oduro, Collen Warner, Warren Creavalle, Doneil Henry
DISABLED LIST: KC: Peterson Joseph, Ike Opara, Chance Myers (season-ending injury)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (20 meetings): Sporting 11 wins, 29 goals … Toronto FC 4 wins, 16 goals … Ties 5
AT KC (10 meetings): Sporting 7 wins, 22 goals … Toronto FC 1 win, 9 goals … Ties 2

2014 (MLS)
5/23: KC 2, TOR 2 (Dwyer 47, 84 – Moore 67; Orr 91+)
7/26: TOR 1, KC 2 (Jackson 16 – Zusi 48; Peterson 80)

  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season. Second-half goals from Graham Zusi and Jacob Peterson brought SKC back from an early deficit for a 2-1 win July 26 at BMO Field. The teams played to a 2-2 draw May 23 at Sporting Park as KCís Dom Dwyer scored two goals.
  • SKC has never lost to TFC at Sporting Park since the ground opened in 2011 (4-0-1). TFC’s last win in Kansas City came March 21, 2009.
  • Over the last four seasons, Toronto FC have defeated Sporting KC just once in six meetings at BMO Field (last March 9).
  • Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. TOR: P12 W8 L1 T3 … Ryan Nelsen vs. KC: P5 W1 L3 T1

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • 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.
  • TORONTO FC (4-4-2): Joseph Bendik - Nick Hagglund, Bradley Orr (Dwayne De Rosario 82), Doneil Henry, Justin Morrow - Dominic Oduro, Collen Warner (Jonathan Osorio 80), Michael Bradley, Jackson - Luke Moore, Gilberto.
  • 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.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City had their overall undefeated and road winning streaks put to an end, falling 2-0 to Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday evening at BC Place. Sporting lead the Eastern Conference with 39 points from 23 games.

LAST MATCH

  • Whitecaps FC were gifted the opening goal in the 17th minute. Pedro Morales hit a long, speculative ball forward that Igor Juliao headed back toward Sporting goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum as he rushed off his line, and the ball sailed into the empty net.
  • The Vancouver advantage was doubled in the 39th minute. Morales picked off a pass in midfield then broke quickly up the middle on a two-on-one break before sliding the ball square to Darren Mattocks, and he made no mistake, lashing home a low shot from just outside the box.
  • Mattocks had a chance to grab his second of the night with a late penalty, after SKC defender Aurelien Collin was adjudged by referee David Gantar to have pulled down Omar Salgado in the box. But Sporting ‘keeper Jon Kempin, making his MLS debut after coming on for the injured Gruenebaum at the half, got a hand to the shot to push it off the post and out.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that reached a 1-1 draw with Philadelphia Union at Sporting Park. Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic came into the team, replacing Kevin Ellis and Antonio Dovale.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Andy Gruenebaum (Jon Kempin 46) - Igor Juliao (C.J. Sapong 64), Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Jorge Claros - Mikey Lopez, Benny Feilhaber - Jacob Peterson (Soony Saad 78), Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi

TEAM NEWS

  • Sporting Kansas City had their long undefeated and road winning streaks put to an end in the loss at Vancouver. It snapped an eight-game unbeaten run overall, and four-game winning run away from Sporting Park, the club’s first defeat since a 1-0 loss at D.C. United on May 31.
  • “We've got a lot to play for, and you can't go out in games and think that it's just going to be a walkthrough, a walk in the park,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “The mentality was not right. Obviously, the mentality's been very good as of late, but it's a thing that you have to bring consistently. When you don't, in this league, you get your butt handed to you.”
  • Sporting could be down to their third-string goalkeeper for the Toronto FC match. Homegrown goalkeeper Jon Kempin made his MLS debut in the loss in Vancouver, coming on as a halftime substitute when Andy Gruenebaum suffered a right shoulder strain. First-choice goalkeeper Eric Kronberg is still out after suffering a fractured hand at the start of July.
  • “Obviously that was my debut … It’s always tough, because you don’t get much of a warm-up or notice (as a substitute), but I was definitely very happy to get in,” Kempin said.
  • Said Vermes: “I think it'll be hard for [Gruenebaum] to be ready for this weekend, but it's not an extended thing. There's no damage. They did an MRI and everything, so it's really going to be based on pain tolerance and we'll see where that goes. That is a day-to-day situation.”
  • Kempin did not concede a goal in his 45 minutes, and also stopped the first penalty kick faced in his MLS career. At midweek, he was named MVP of the Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game as part of the All-Star Game festivities.
  • “He played well,” Vermes said. “He makes a save off the penalty, he does a good job. He was getting all the pieces. He didn't get tested too much, but when he had to be big, he was with the penalty. But there was no way we were going to put the ball in the back of the net today, nor really create a bunch of chances. That's not going to happen when you have a lackadaisical attitude, and that's my responsibility. I'll be taking care of that pretty quickly.”
  • Sporting’s four members of the MLS All-Star team – defenders Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler, midfielder Graham Zusi and striker Dom Dwyer (along with Homegrown Game participant Kempin) – all joined the club in Vancouver.
  • “From a physical perspective, no I don’t think so, but obviously, all four of the guys from the All-Star game for sure didn’t have their best games today, so that definitely has to have something to do with it, I would assume, because they didn’t have any training with us all week,” said Vermes.
  • Said Besler: “No effect. Anyone that says it affects you – that’s just an excuse. Like I said, the mentality wasn’t good enough and we didn’t play the way we could.”

TORONTO FC
Toronto FC won their second consecutive match, getting a late winner for a 3-2 victory against the Columbus Crew on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium. TFC sit in third place in the Eastern Conference, with 32 points from 21 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • Toronto opened scoring in the 43rd minute. Pushing forward out of the TFC end, Luke Moore found Gilberto in plenty of space just off the Crew back line. Gilberto was then able to turn and curl a low shot past goalkeeper Steve Clark inside the right post.But the Crew were able to pull even just before break. A Federico Higuain corner kick found the head of Tony Tchani, and his header seemed destined for goal, until making contact with Toronto defender Justin Morrow's flailing arm, and referee Marcos de Oliviera awarded the penalty kick. Higuain confidently slotted home the ensuing spot kick in stoppage time.
  • The visitors again took the lead just before the hour mark. A trio of Toronto players broke toward goal, and Moore's lunging effort bounced off the Columbus goalkeeper. The rebound fell perfectly for Jonathan Osorio, who calmly put Toronto ahead in front of an open net.
  • But the Crew again found a response in the 82nd minute when substitute Justin Meram hit a cross from the left flank that bounced past a fooled TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik and snuck inside the far post.
  • Yet there was still one more answer from Toronto just two minutes later. Moore found space in the box and finishing a Collen Warner corner kick with a diving header for the match-winner.
  • TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen made no changes to the team that defeated the Montreal Impact 2-0 at Stade Saputo.
  • TORONTO FC (4-4-2): Joseph Bendik - Warren Creavalle, Doneil Henry, Nick Hagglund, Justin Morrow - Dominic Oduro (Jackson 61), Collen Warner, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio - Luke Moore (Kyle Bekker 90), Gilberto.

TEAM NEWS

  • Toronto FC have won back-to-back games for a third time this season – they still have yet to put together a three-game winning streak in league play.
  • “We just want to try and evolve as a team. Every day, every week, we are trying to improve the team. We know we aren’t at the end product yet. We are still looking to always improve the team,” said TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen. “If you saw us in the start, you have seen a really nice improvement. We always want to try and get better and better, but there is still a lot we need to work on.”
  • Added Michael Bradley: “We need to be a little more consistent. We need to be a little bit more ruthless, a little bit more determined to walk off the field every week with points. I think if that part can come around, and I think it is, then we are going to have the chance to be a very good team in this league.”
  • Gilberto and Luke Moore each scored their second goals in as many games, starting together in attack in each match as Jermain Defoe has been sidelined with a groin injury.
  • Moore also played provider on both of Gilberto’s goals, and now has three assists to go with his five goals.
  • “We never for a second lost faith in him [Gilberto]. I know at times the media can be a little different. I know, especially for forwards, how important it is just to get goals. Even on days when he doesn’t score his contribution is so important,” said Bradley. “Together with Luke Moore, they were such a handful tonight and really did such a good job making the game difficult for their defenders.”
  • The victory also gave Toronto FC four points breathing room in third place in the Eastern Conference, as the club chases the first appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs in its history. TFC also has two games in hand on almost all of the teams around them in the conference (except D.C. United).
  • “This was a huge game for us,” Nelsen said. “Absolutely a huge game. This is a game against a rival who was on our heels and it gives us that separation. We want to hunt down [second-place] D.C. United and it was a really critical game for this part of the season.”
  • Dominic Oduro made a fifth consecutive start on the right of midfield, but had to come out against his former club just after the hour mark.
  • “Dom got a knock really early. He felt it for the whole game. It probably put him a bit out of sync,” said Nelsen. “The Columbus guys probably know Dom better than we do. He soldiered on and really put on a good performance. Obviously, he is disappointed he didn’t, but a lot of the guys have done really well.”
  • TFC have also won back-to-back games away from BMO Field, after going six consecutive matches without a road victory (going 0-2-4).
  • “We do have a confidence about us when we’re away from home because we know we play a brand of football that’s very dynamic,” Nelsen said. “It’s very attack-minded and it causes teams trouble away from home because a lot of teams, at home, open themselves up. At home, they’re a bit more carefree and open and we play an attacking brand of football that can hurt teams if they’re not in the right kind of organization.”