Match #13 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. Sporting KC

CHESTER, PA - JUNE 22: Jimmy Nielsen #1 of Sporting Kansas City makes a save during the game against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on June 22, 2011 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The game ended 0-0. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Setting: Saturday, June 23 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 7:06:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: The Comcast Network (JP Dellacamera, Bob Rigby), with coverage beginning at 6:30 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / KSMO-TV (Callum Williams, Jake Yadrich) in Kansas City / MLS Live, Direct Kick (The Comcast Network feed)

Sporting's Record: 9-3-2, 29 points (second in East)

Sporting's Last Match: T, 1-1 at Seattle

Philadelphia vs. Sporting Last Season: 0-0-2 (Sporting KC 0 @ Philadelphia 0 on June 22; Philadelphia 1 @ Sporting KC 1 on September 23)

For the Sporting KC Perspective, Visit The Daily Wiz

Two very busy teams will meet tomorrow night at PPL Park, as the Philadelphia Union host Sporting Kansas City. Sporting is coming off a 1-1 draw in Seattle this past Wednesday, and have the rough task of playing on the opposite coast just three days later. For Philadelphia, while it's been a week since they lost at home to D.C. United, they have their U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals match against the Harrisburg City Islanders to look forward to on Tuesday. Sporting KC also plays in an Open Cup quarterfinal match on Tuesday, against the Dayton Dutch Lions. How these teams are trending in MLS play probably tells you all you need to know about the outlook for this one: Sporting are unbeaten in four, while the Union have lost four of their last five and are winless in six. Sporting have scored seven goals during their unbeaten streak, while the Union are coming off of consecutive shutouts in MLS play. There were a lot of positives to take from John Hackworth's first match as team manager, though, and that bodes well, especially since the travel could lead to some heavy legs for Kansas City.

Against D.C., the Union were able to create offensive chances, but unable to finish them, which is nothing new for Philadelphia. It continues to be the story of the season for them, quite frankly. However, one encouraging sign from this week's training is that Hackworth has begun to emphasize rather strongly that he plans to maintain some continuity with regard to his starting lineup. While Peter Nowak generally his backline and central midfielders Brian Carroll and Gabriel Gomez stable, the you never knew exactly who to expect as wingers and forwards. Hackworth also promised that he would provide increased minutes for many of the team's younger players who haven't gotten the minutes necessary to continue development, namely Jack McInerney. What that standard lineup ends up being is yet to be seen, but it's clear that jumbling things up offensively every couple of weeks does not breed the sort of chemistry necessary to succeed in MLS.

Sporting KC has a strong offensive game, and pushes forward aggressively, generally coming out in a 4-3-3. Kei Kamara, and C.J. Sapong and will burn you, and Graham Zusi can break you down. Even the defender Aurelien Collin has three this season. But it's their defensive success that has been particularly impressive. They're averaging less than a goal conceded per match, down about 1/3 of a goal per match from last season. Jimmy Nielsen is having another spectacular season between the pipes for Kansas City, with six shutouts to boot, tied with Vancouver's Joe Cannon. The interesting thing about these two clubs is that they are in the same bracket in the U.S. Open Cup, and, in fact, if Sporting KC defeat the Dutch Lions, and the Union defeat the City Islanders, they will face each other again at PPL Park in a semifinal match on July 11. So we could see these teams together again well before the Union visit LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on October 24.

Projected starters, injury reports, and assorted match notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; Gaddis, Valdes, Williams, Lahoud; Carroll, Gomez; Daniel, M. Farfan; Adu, Perlaza

Sporting KC: Nielsen; Harrington, Olum, Collin, Myers; Espinoza, Thomas, Joseph; Saad, Peterson, Bunbury

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Krystian Witkowski (concussion) remains out. Sheanon Williams is "doubtful" due to a right big toe sprain. Gabriel Gomez (left knee patellar tendonitis) and Cristhian Hernandez (right knee sprain) are "questionable". Keon Daniel (left ankle sprain) is "probable".

For Sporting KC, Korede Aiyegbusi (right knee sprain), Matt Besler (appendicitis), Bobby Convey (right calf strain), Cyprian Hedrick (left fibula fracture), Jon Kempin (right ankle fracture), Paulo Nagamura (right abductor strain), Luke Sassano (left knee sprain), and Shawn Singh (left quad strain) are all unavailable.

Of note:

  • Terry Vaughn is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 153 career MLS matches, Vaughn has called an average of 28.3 fouls per match, handed out an average of just under four yellow cards per match, given a total of 49 red cards, and has awarded a total of 49 penalty kicks.
  • Gabriel Gomez and Aurelien Collin are both one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for accumulation of yellow cards.
  • Sporting KC have scored first in 11 of their 14 MLS matches, though the timing of their goals is remarkably evenly distributed throughout the 90 minutes of their matches. So often we see that teams score a disproportionate amount in the first half, or the second half, or even the first or last thirty minutes of matches, but not Sporting.
  • Kei Kamara's exact availability is a little unclear -- after returning from international duty for Sierra Leone with a 38-hour flight, he came on in Seattle as a substitute. He's certainly available to play in some way, but it's possible that out of precaution Sporting choose to keep him out of the starting lineup again. We'll see.
The Union look to begin an important week in the right way, while Sporting Kansas City continue through a brutal schedule. If you're heading down to PPL Park tomorrow night, enjoy the match, but if you're not, we hope you can join us for a gamethread!
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