The Union handed Kansas City their worst loss of the season last year when Sporting visited the City of Brotherly Love. The 4-0 loss was disheartening, especially after their draw only a few days earlier in Seattle. Philadelphia has looked to rebuild their offense this year, bringing back former MVP, Sebastian Le Toux who spent time last year with Vancouver and New York last year. They also picked up former Colorado forward, Conor Casey. Casey always seems to cause problems for Sporting, even if it doesn't include scoring goals. Defensively, Philadelphia lost their captain and one of their best defenders in Carlos Valdes, who has returned to Colombia on loan. In his place, Philadelphia has brought in Jeff Parke from Philadelphia.
One big question for Kansas City this past offseason was who would replace the starters who have left the team. With Julio Cesar, Roger Espinoza, and Kei Kamara all not around for the 2013 season (at least the start in Kamara's case), that left 3 starting spots up for grabs. In the midfield it looks like Oriol Rosell and Benny Feilhaber are the ones filling Cesar's and Espinoza's roles, although not in the same way. Rosell isn't going to be the tackler that Cesar was, but he is going to be a lot more mobile int he midfield which should help to counter the need for as much tackling. In Feilhaber you don't have the destroyer that Espinoza was, but you're going to get more offensive production from the US national team midfielder. As for Kamara, the prime player to replace him on the right is Graham Zusi. Zusi has played that wide forward position for the national team and looks set to continue it.
New DP Claudio Bieler has slotted into the center forward position, leaving only 1 real question with the lineup, and that's who starts on the left wing. KC has CJ Sapong who would bring some of Kamara's skill set, size and speed, to the lineup that Peter Vermes loves to cause mismatches with. Or KC can go with the returning Bobby Convey who looks to be fit after suffering from fitness issues the second half of last season.
Myers - Collin - Besler - Sinovic
Rosell - Nagamura
Zusi - Bieler - Sapong
Key Match Up - Aurelien Collin vs Conor Casey - Collin is the likely candidate to get the job of marking the big center forward. Collin seems to love these types of match ups and they're always entertaining to watch. But it's always one of those things where you feel it's only seconds away from a red card for either or both players.
Number to Remember - 11 - The number of opening day wins KC has in their history. This is the most of any team in MLS. KC has also won their last three season opening games, the last two of those coming on the road. KC has won their last three when the season opener has been on the road as well.
PREDICTION - KC's offense might take a little while to click on all cylinders, but the defense looks as strong as they did last year. On the other side, I think Philadelphia's defense and goalkeeping can be exploited by Kansas City's attack. You know Vermes has probably brought up last year's 4-0 loss in Philly to the team and that will be something that is casually in the minds of the players who played in that game.
SKC - 2 (Sapong, Bieler)
PHI - 1 (Le Toux)