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Match #33 Preview: Philadelphia Union At Sporting Kansas City

The Union (10-16-6) play their final road match of the year at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, home of Eastern Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City (17-7-9). KC can clinch the #1 seed in the East with a draw or win.

Jamie Squire

Setting: Wednesday, October 24 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas; kickoff scheduled for 8:36:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: The Comcast Network (JP Dellacamera, Bob Rigby), with coverage beginning at 8:00 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / NBC Sports Network (The Comcast Network feed) nationally in the U.S. / KSMO-TV (Callum Williams, Jake Yadrich), KDTD-AM 1340 in Kansas City / MLS Live (blacked out in the U.S.)

Sporting KC's Record: 17-7-9 (60 points, first in East)

Sporting KC's Last Match: T, 0-0 at New York

Philadelphia vs. Sporting KC In MLS This Season: 1-0-0 (Sporting KC 0 @ Philadelphia 4 on June 23 in John Hackworth's first win at the helm)

For the Sporting KC Perspective, Visit The Daily Wiz

The Philadelphia Union are in Kansas City, preparing to take on Sporting Kansas City at raucous LIVESTRONG Sporting Park for their final road match of the season. This mid-week match is Sporting's final of the regular season, and a win or draw will result in a mathematical clinch of the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Obviously there are no standings implications for the Union, who have been playing for pride for a good couple of months now. John Hackworth's squad will return home after this match and prepare for their final regular season match, a date at PPL Park with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon.

For Peter Vermes, the crucial question is how strong of a lineup to put out against Philadelphia. If Vermes miscalculates and fields a relatively weak starting XI, and Philadelphia leaves with an upset victory, Kansas City is exposed to D.C. United taking the #1 seed if they win this weekend. The more starters Vermes plays, though, the more risk for injury, especially since this is a mid-week match and many of his players could probably still use a day or two following their weekend in New York. Peter Vermes is not the type to sit back, as shown by his reliance on aggressive formations, so one would have to think that he will field his best possible team in order to take the most points possible from the Union. Looking ahead to the playoffs, Kansas City is actually in a pretty decent position in terms of injuries. The team has recovered well from losing forward Teal Bunbury to a torn ACL two months ago, and their only other injury of particular note is Roger Espinoza's ankle sprain. He's said to be a game-time decision, though it seems unlikely that Vermes would risk playing someone like Espinoza below 100% at this point in the season. On Monday, Espinoza told reporters that if the match were being held right then and there, he wouldn't be able to play.

Philadelphia has continued to make its way through the stretch run, not really improving, but also not really getting worse. It seems to be more of the same every week. John Hackworth has still yet to fully embrace some of his younger, less-experienced players, which is undoubtedly frustrating for many fans. If these last few matches of 2012 are supposed to be providing insight into what 2013 will bring, barring a major roster addition or two, there doesn't seem to be all that much room for improvement in terms of the standings. As a whole, decent to mediocre defending and goalkeeping combined with a poor offense isn't going to get a team very far. If Hackworth is still hoping for someone on his roster to show him that they can be an impact player in 2013, time is running out.

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; Williams, Valdes, Okugo, Gaddis; Carroll, Lahoud; Daniel, M. Farfan, Cruz; McInerney

Sporting KC: Nielsen; Sinovic, Besler, Collin, Myers; Nagamura, Julio Cesar; Zusi; Peterson, Sapong; Kamara

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Bakary Soumare (right knee menisectomy recovery) is out. Sheanon Williams (left ankle peroneal/Achilles strain) and Gabriel Farfan (right ankle stress reaction) are "doubtful". Danny Cruz (left big toe sesamoid stress fracture) is "questionable". Chris Albright (illness) is "probable".

For Sporting KC, Teal Bunbury (left knee ACL tear) is out, as is Cyprian Hedrick (left fibula fracture). Roger Espinoza (right ankle sprain) is "doubtful".

Of note:

  • Ismail Elfath is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In a grand total of seven career MLS matches, Elfath has called an average of 22.3 fouls per match, handed out an average of 2.1 yellow cards per match, given a total of four red cards, and has awarded a total of five penalty kicks. Look out for some refereeing controversy, perhaps.
  • If Gabriel Farfan, Gabriel Gomez, Jack McInerney, or Michael Lahoud receive a yellow card tomorrow, they will be suspended for this weekend's match against the Red Bulls for yellow card accumulation.
  • Kansas City was held to a season-low in shots (6) and shots-on-goal (1) this past weekend in New York.
  • Interestingly enough, if the Union get a victory, they would match the team record for most road victories in a season. They are 3-9-4 on the road this season, and last season set the team high at four wins (4-7-6 overall on the road in 2011).
  • Sporting KC has a five-match home unbeaten streak going.
The Union's final road match of 2012 is at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park as Sporting KC tries to clinch the #1 seed in the East. We hope you can join us here tomorrow night for a gamethread!