Sporting Kansas City vs. Philadelphia Union
2017 MLS Regular Season
Children's Mercy Park – Kansas City, Kan.
Thursday, July 6 – 8:30 pm ET
WATCH: MLS LIVE
Sporting Kansas City are among the handful of teams that are still undefeated when playing at home this year, but a rising Philadelphia Union squad that wants to get back over the red line in the Eastern Conference is looking to change that.
Sporting KC will welcome the Union to town in Thursday's lone game, and the showdown at Children's Mercy Park will pit two sides on decent runs of form against one another. Kansas City, who are unbeaten in nine games at home this year, have not tasted defeat in five straight after the weekend's 1-1 draw vs. the Portland Timbers. Philadelphia, meanwhile, have won two in a row and six of their last nine. The Union also picked up an impressive 3-0 victory over the New England Revolution the last time out.
Both teams will be without some of their top players in this one, however. Sporting KC will be missing the trio of Dom Dwyer, Matt Besler, and Graham Zusi due to US national team call-ups while fellow American Alejandro Bedoya and Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake are also away on international duty for the Union. Managing those losses will not be easy, but the team that does the better job of it will put itself in prime position to collect all three points before MLS's brief CONCACAF Gold Cup break.
Sporting Kansas City
Missing the aforementioned starting trio, Sporting Kansas City were still able to keep their current undefeated streak alive on Saturday against a conference opponent by coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against Portland. Daniel Salloi came off the bench to score the second-half equalizer for Sporting KC, but only after replacing dynamic winger Gerso, who left the game with a shoulder injury.
Salloi will probably have to help Kansas City earn a result again, as Gerso is unlikely to suit up on Thursday. That is a loss to a front line that is already without Dom Dwyer, but head coach Peter Vermes has confidence that Salloi can do a good job in the final third.
"His progression has been very good,” said Vermes. “There’s always aspects that a player needs to continue to get better at, but if there’s one thing that I’ve said about him – and I’ll keep repeating it – is that anytime he’s in or around the box, he’s deadly."
Some more positive news for Sporting KC is that Ike Opara should once again be leading the back line. Opara has been playing some of the best soccer of his career this year while leading Kansas City's stingy defense, which has allowed a league-low 13 goals against in 19 games.
- Suspended: Roger Espinoza (card accumulation)
- Int’l Duty: DF Matt Besler (USA), DF Graham Zusi (USA), FW Dom Dwyer (USA)
- Injury Report: DOUBTFUL: FW Gerso (shoulder)
Projected Starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): Tim Melia – Saad Abdul-Salaam, Ike Opara, Kevin Ellis, Seth Sinovic – Soni Mustivar, Ilie Sanchez, Benny Feilhaber – Daniel Salloi, Soony Saad, Latif Blessing
Notes: Sporting KC's 1-1 draw with Portland on July 1 extended a club-record home undefeated streak to 17 games. Dating back to last June 19, the streak surpassed a 12-game mark set March 8-Aug. 15, 2015; SKC has recorded 10 shutouts during the run. Sporting are one of four teams in MLS without a home defeat this season (6-0-3).
In cruising to a 3-0 win against the New England Revolution, the Philadelphia Union prevailed for the second straight match via shutout and are looking for more in order to move out of eighth place in the east. Philadelphia are hoping to become the first visiting side to triumph at Children's Mercy Park, but they will need strong play at both ends of the field to have a shot doing so.
The Union defense is looking better, thanks to solid play from veteran center back Oguchi Onyewu, but the club will need backup goalkeeper John McCarthy to fill in well for absent incumbent Andre Blake. Philadelphia could also use another strong performance from striker C.J. Sapong, who netted against the Revolution and is now one goal away from hitting the double-digit mark for the first time in his career.
"It would be great [to get to 10 goals],” said Sapong. “But I’m just happy I can also find ways to put my teammates in scoring position. I’m seeing my battling throughout the game is paying dividends for myself and my teammates around me so I just want to keep doing that.
The Union may not have central defender Jack Elliott for this one. Elliott suffered a knee injury that forced him out of the game against New England, and was replaced by Joshua Yaro. The rookie said he was removed as a precaution, but head coach Jim Curtin might deem it too risky to throw Elliott out there again, given the short turnaround.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: MF Alejandro Bedoya (USA), GK Andre Blake (JAM)
- Injury Report: OUT: MF Maurice Edu (left tibia stress fracture); QUESTIONABLE: MF Warren Creavalle (right hamstring strain), MF Fabian Herbers (right adductor strain), DF Jack Elliott (knee)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): John McCarthy – Raymon Gaddis, Joshua Yaro, Oguchi Onyewu, Giliano Wijnaldum – Derrick Jones, Haris Medunjanin – Chris Pontius, Ilsinho, Fafa Picault – C.J. Sapong
Notes: Philadelphia's 3-0 win over New England on July 2 was the second consecutive shutout for the Union, having now not allowed a goal in their last 180 minutes. Of the six victories for Union this season (over the last nine games), five have come by shutout.
The overall series is in a dead heat, but Sporting Kansas City have a slight advantage all-time in matches played at home.
- Overall: SKC 5 wins (17 goals), PHI 5 wins (19 goals), 4 draws
- At SKC: SKC 3 wins (10 goals), PHI 2 wins (8 goals), 2 draws
- Referee: Ricardo Salazar
- Senior Assistant Referee, near side: Ian Anderson
- Junior Assistant Referee, far side: Kathryn Nesbitt
- 4th Official: Nima Saghafi