Sporting Kansas City vs. Philadelphia Union | MLS Match Preview

SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
Sept. 27, 2013 (WEEK 31, MLS Game #280)
8 pm ET (NBCSN; TSN2)

A huge match in the Eastern Conference playoff chase kicks off the weekend when Sporting Kansas City play host to Philadelphia Union on Friday evening at Sporting Park before an NBC Sports Network audience. Riding a three-game winning streak following a 2-1 win last weekend at Toronto FC, Sporting now sit in second place, just three points behind overall leader New York. Union have dropped out of the top five ñ by just a single point ñ having now gone five games without a victory, returning to action following a 1-0 home loss to Houston Dynamo two weeks ago.


REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. AR1 (bench): Corey Rockwell; AR2 (opposite): Chris Strickland; 4th: Younes Marrakchi

MLS Career: 177 games; FC/gm: 26.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 51; pens: 61




SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: KC: Claudio Bieler, Aurelien Collin, Oriol Rosell, Seth Sinovic … PHI: Danny Cruz, Michael Farfan

SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Lawrence Olum, Benny Feilhaber, Paulo Nagamura, Chance Myers, Peterson Joseph … PHI: Brian Carroll, Raymon Gaddis, Jeff Parke, Conor Casey, Keon Daniel, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo



ALL-TIME (7 meetings): Sporting 3 wins, 9 goals … Union 1 win, 8 goals … Ties 3

AT KC (3 meetings): Sporting 2 wins, 5 goals … Union 0 win, 2 goals … Ties 1

FUTURE MATCH: 10/26: Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City, 3 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. 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 win in the first meeting was the first ever by a road team in the series. Sporting have won two of the three meetings all-time between the teams in Kansas City, with one draw, including a 2-1 win last year.
  • The teams also met in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup a year ago, KC taking a 2-0 win at Sporting Park on their way to the U.S. championship (Peterson 65; Zusi 93+)
  • Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. PHI: P7 W3 L1 D3 Ö John Hackworth vs. KC: P3 W1 L2 D0


3/2: PHI 1, KC 3 (Le Toux 17 – Zusi 41; Rosell 66; Bieler 83)

  • Union took the lead in the 17th minute. Sebastien Le Toux snuck behind the SKC defense and received a brilliant over-the-top ball from Keon Daniel, managing to control the long pass and immediately fire it past SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
  • Sporting leveled the scoreline just minutes before halftime. Bobby Convey made a nifty move along the sideline and played a cross into the box to Claudio Bieler, who headed it back to fellow SKC newcomer Benny Feilhaber. Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath blocked Feilhaber’s blast but could not do the same on Graham Zusi’s close-range rebound.
  • SKC took the lead in the 66th minute when Zusi whipped in a sharp free kick from the left to Oriol Rosell, who broke free of his mark and headed it past MacMath.
  • Sporting put the game away in the 83rd minute. Chance Myers laid the ball back for Bieler from the right side of the area and he took a composed left-footed shot that beat MacMath to open his MLS scoring account.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Jeff Parke, Amobi Okugo, Raymon Gaddis - Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud (Roger Torres 80) - Michael Farfan, Keon Daniel (Conor Casey 84), Gabriel Farfan (Jack McInerney 70) - Sebastien Le Toux.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-3-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers (Mechack Jerome 90), Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber (Peterson Joseph 82), Oriol Rosell - Graham Zusi, Claudio Bieler, Bobby Convey (C.J. Sapong 63).


Sporting Kansas City made it three wins in a row, defeating Toronto FC 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. Sporting are in second place in the Eastern Conference with 48 points from 29 matches.


  • Sporting opened the scoring in the 18th minute. A well-placed long ball from Graham Zusi found Dominic Dwyer, and after he nodded it back across the box a completely unmarked C.J. Sapong was there to head the ball into the back of the net.
  • Toronto FC equalized in the 38th minute. Alvaro Rey picked up a loose ball out on the left and set up midfielder Darel Russell, who struck home with a low shot just inside the left post.
  • Kansas City engineered a winner in the 53rd minute when Sapong once again got the better of the TFC backline and headed in his second of the game via a cross into the Toronto box from right back Chance Myers.
  • Toronto went down to 10 men in the 86th minute when TFC captain Steven Caldwell was handed a straight red by referee Allen Chapman for a foul on Sporting KC defender Josh Gardner. The afternoon was punctuated when Chapman dismissed TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen and assistant Fran O’Leary during stoppage time.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made five changes to the team that recorded a 3-0 defeat of the Columbus Crew at Sporting Park. Chance Myers came in at right back for Josh Gardner, Lawrence Olum and Graham Zusi started in midfield for Oriol Rosell and Paulo Nagamura, and Jacob Peterson and Dom Dwyer started up top in place of Claudio Bieler and Soony Saad.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Ike Opara, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic - Lawrence Olum - Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber (Peterson Joseph 64) - Jacob Peterson (Josh Gardner 81), Dom Dwyer (Teal Bunbury 85), C.J. Sapong.


  • Sporting’s three-game winning streak matches their longest of the season, having won three in a row from March 30-April 17 ñ when they defeated Montreal, D.C. United and New York all by shutout.
  • “Scoring first and getting the second one to go ahead again shows a lot of grit and desire by the group at this time of year which is what you are looking for and it keeps us in the running,” said Sporting manager Peter Vermes. “Winning points like this on the road are not easy. I say this all the time; I don’t think that there is a team in the league that you can say that any game is going to be a lay-up. There is nobody in the league that way, there is too much parity and so this was big for us to get the points away from home.”
  • C.J. Sapong has scored the last three goals Sporting has scored, all on headers from crosses. He has started three of the last four matches.
  • “He was very important to how we wanted to play,” Vermes said. “Obviously, two great goals over the course of the game. He was tremendous in that regard, but it's not just that. It's everything on both sides of the ball. He's becoming a handful for players to play against. That's huge.”
  • Claudio Bieler was held out of the match, missing a third game out of Sporting’s last four contests, after suffering a groin strain in training ahead of the Toronto FC game.
  • Holding midfielder Oriol Rosell also missed the TFC game – the first time he’s been out of the first team for a league game since May 13, and just the second time this season – after suffering a quadriceps strain in SKC’s CONCACAF Champions League match against Nicaraguan side Real Esteli.
  • “We're trying to make the transition from the training room to the field. If they're ready, they'll be a part of the selection,” Vermes said. “But I'm not going to force them. I just can't do it.”
  • While Matt Besler was back from international duty with the U.S. national team, Ike Opara continued in central defense, making his second consecutive start, his first two since July 27 in MLS play.
  • “I thought we were really organized and that started with communication from Jimmy Nielsen in the back. It was great, we always found ourselves in the right spots and we pressed well from the midfield and all the way up top which makes our life a lot easier,” said fullback Seth Sinovic. “I think we were organized and were talking a lot and I felt we did a really good job with that.”


Philadelphia Union return to action after having their winless and shutout streaks extended, falling 1-0 to the Houston Dynamo on Sept. 14 at PPL Park. Union sit in a tie for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 39 points from 29 matches.


  • The game's lone goal came in the 53rd minute. Brad Davis swung in a free kick from 40 yards out, and Ricardo Clark was able to squeeze between two defenders to head home from from inside the penalty area.
  • Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall did not have to make a single save for the match. He was beaten in the 30th minute, allowing a Keon Daniel free kick to curl into the goal, but the apparent ruled out after defender Amobi Okugo was adjudged offside.
  • Union team manager John Hackworth made one change to the team that went down to a 1-0 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium. Amobi Okugo came back into the side in place of Jack McInerney.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-4-2): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Jeff Parke, Amobi Okugo, Raymon Gaddis (Antoine Hoppenot 79) - Danny Cruz (Jack McInerney 61), Keon Daniel (Michael Farfan 71), Brian Carroll, Fabinho - Sebastien Le Toux, Conor Casey.


  • Union have now gone five games without a victory, their longest winless streak since enduring a club-record eight-game run without a win last season (Aug. 4-Sept. 20).
  • “It has been a really bad stretch for us and this night is going to be a really difficult to accept. There is no question that effort of the group was fantastic and their competitiveness showed right from the get-go,” said Union team manager John Hackworth. “They put a lot into this game and it is unfortunate that we are sitting here talking about this result but that’s sports and as I said it’s cruel sometimes.”
  • Union have also gone a club-record 310 minutes since scoring a goal, shut out at the attacking end in three consecutive games. Their last goal came Aug. 25, in the 5-1 loss at New England, the only goal they’ve scored over the current winless run.
  • “Obviously it is something the team is thinking about right now, we are not going to win games if we are not scoring,” said striker Jack McInerney. “We just have to keep heads up and keep pushing those chances and eventually they will fall for us.”
  • Said Hackworth: “I think we have all been in this business long enough to know that these kind of run of forms happen in particular in the MLS season. I can tell you many times having a five-game winless streak is nothing compared to some of the winless streaks I have had in the past as a coach. It is how you rebound from them. I remember one such streak where we were able to reel off 12 consecutive wins. I am not saying we are going to get to that level, but we are still in a good position for ourselves.”
  • After missing two matches through suspension, Amobi Okugo returned to his place in central defense, alongside Jeff Parke.
  • Sheanon Williams remained in the team, resuming his spot at right back, with Raymon Gaddis moving across the field to left back.
  • That meant Fabinho was given the start on the left side of midfield, his first start at the position, after five consecutive starts at left back. Fabinho had made appearances on the left of midfield as a substitute in his first four MLS appearances.
  • “Since I've been here, (Hackworth) has talked to me about playing different positions,” Fabinho said. “In my first game, I came in as a midfielder. When I found out (that I would be starting tonight), I knew that I'd be ready, because I've been playing in both spots.”
  • Fabinho's been good for us … he's certainly a dangerous player at left mid, and he showed that," said Hackworth. “I thought he put in three of the best balls in the first half, and he was unfortunate to not get an assist on one of those. But he's been good. It's hard to fault him … when we play as well as we did in that game and lose.”
  • There was also a change for Sebastien Le Toux, moved forward to partner Conor Casey in attack as Jack McInerney came off the substitutes’ bench following two consecutive starts.
  • “We made a lot of changes to our system, we start Fabinho at left mid, we had Sebastien up front, then we start Ray Gaddis back at left back,” said Hackworth. “I thought we played with the best team on the field… we probably played one of our best first halves moving the ball and dictating the tempo of the game and creating multiple opportunities.”

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