With the way that results went last weekend, Sporting KC needs a result tomorrow against the Philadelphia Union to clinch first place in the Eastern Conference. A win or a tie guarantees KC their second straight Eastern Conference regular season championship. A loss and Sporting KC has to put their faith in the hands of the Chicago Fire beating or tying DC United on Saturday to give KC the Eastern Conference regular season championship.
The Union come into the game having been already eliminated from the playoff race for a few weeks already. They've still been a competitive side, including wins over playoff bound Houston and Chicago. They did lose their most recent game though also against Houston. After coming back from a goal down early to tie it 1-1 the Union gave up 2 goals in the second half to fall 3-1. Forward Jack McInerney has been on fire for the Union, scoring in 4 straight games as he leads the team in goals with 8. Philadelphia to begin with has a fairly young team, so there's not really much incentive to play the "kids" as often happens with teams eliminated from the playoffs late in the season as the Union have played a lot of "kids" all season.
Sporting won't be sitting back obviously, since they're still trying to clinch the East. If they'd have clinched it on the weekend you could have see KC rest a starter or two to give them a bit of a rest. Although with KC having the longest break of any playoff team before they start the playoffs in a week and a half there's also very little reason to think they'd rest anyway. Roger Espinoza is still returning from his sprained ankle, but last night on the Quest for the Cup show, Peter Vermes said that he planned to have Espinoza play a role of some kind. I'd expect a lineup similar or the same as the one that Vermes put out on the weekend against New York.
Myers - Collin - Besler - Sinovic
Cesar - Nagamura
Kamara - Sapong - Peterson
Number to Remember - 1 - That's the number of points that Sporting need to clinch the top of the East. Three will obviously do it as well, but KC needs at least one to go into this weekend more relaxed instead of scoreboard watching.
Key Match Up - Matt Besler vs Jack McInerney - McInerney is the main offensive weapon going forward for Philadelphia without a big bruising forward, the work of marking him will likely fall more on Besler to take care of business. Besler's turning in a Best XI season at center back and really has been the rock of the back line this season especially.
PREDICTION - KC absolutely needs this game. There's no question about that. If they can't get up to take care of business tomorrow then I dread how the playoffs are going to go. Home hasn't been a place where KC has really scored a lot of goals this season though. Of the 40 goals they've scored this season, only 20 of them have been at Livestrong Sporting Park. They've scored as many goals on the road as at home this year, the offense hasn't been getting the job done. There is a little bit of a revenge factor for KC though. Earlier this year Philadelphia defeated KC 4-0 at PPL Park, and while KC got a matter of revenge beating the Union 2-0 at PPL Park to advance to the US Open Cup final, I think they'll still want to rub it in a little bit on Philadelphia at home.
KC - 2 (Kamara, Sapong)
PHI - 0