Ahead of tomorrow afternoon's game between the Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City, in which the Union will look to stay alive for 24 more hours and SKC will try to get a strangle hold on #1 in the East and perhaps the Supporters' Shied, I had the opportunity to exchange emails with Ben Gartland from Sporting Kansas City's SB Nation blog The Daily Wiz. His answers to my questions are below.
The Brotherly Game: With Sporting Kansas City having already clinched a playoff spot and having played in the Champions League on Wednesday night, do you expect them to play all the regular starters against the Union?
The Daily Wiz: Sporting KC still has a very realistic shot at the Supporters Shield and would win the Shield with a win and a result from the Fire. I fully expect Peter Vermes to play a full strength lineup to try and get the full three points. Besides, they already won't be playing their first match in the playoffs until a week after this one, so might as well go for the Shield since they'll have a week to rest up for the playoffs.
TBG: Last time Sporting Kansas City played the Philadelphia Union, the Union surprised everyone by upsetting Sporting Kansas City 1-0 at Sporting Park. How do you expect Peter Vermes to adjust?
TDW: I actually think that Peter Vermes will keep his tactics the same to adjust to the change in tactics from the Union. Philly bunkered at Sporting Park and bit us on a counterattack goal. Playing at home and needing a win, however, the Union are going to have to open up more and attack the goal. Sporting's normal tactics of a high-pressure 4-3-3 are a better tactic to throw against an attacking team in the Union than a bunkering team.
TBG: How would you grade Sporting Kansas City's 2013 season? Do you expect them to find success in the playoffs?
TDW: Sporting has dropped some really stupid points throughout the season and has failed to capitalize on opportunities given to them to run away with the Eastern Conference and the Shield. I feel the expectations for Sporting this season were really high and, while they've played well, they didn't meet those sky-high expectations. Now, some silverware will make all of those thoughts go away and this season will be looked on as a success.
I'm not sure what I expect from them in the playoffs. All of the playoff teams are really good at home and Sporting hasn't been too great at home this season. The two-leg format does not favor Sporting. I will be happy with whatever success they have, but winning the Shield would make any loss in the playoffs less disappointing.
TBG: And lastly, how about a starting XI and final score prediction.
TDW: Nielsen, Sinovic, Besler, Collin, Myers, Rosell, Joseph, Feilhaber, Saad, Dwyer, Zusi
Score: 1-0 Sporting KC
TBG: Special thanks to Ben for taking the time out of his day to answer my questions. For my answers to his questions and for all commentary on Sporting Kansas City ahead of tomorrow's bout, please check out The Daily Wiz.