Thursday, October 09, 2014

Match Day 32 - Playoffs Within Reach

Despite the losses, the winless run, and the two wins in their last 10 games, Sporting Kansas City have the chance to clinch a playoff berth tomorrow night against the Chicago Fire, a win and Sporting is into the playoffs again this year. Standing in their way at Sporting Park, the Fire have been eliminated from the playoff race this year already.

The same Chicago team has set a league record for draws in a season having drawn the 18 of their 31 games so far this season. The Fire struggled in their last outing against the Montreal Impact, not creating much in the way of chances, and luckily having a goal by Jack McInerney incorrectly ruled offside. Chicago though is undefeated against KC so far this season, winning 2-1 in Chicago and drawing 1-1 in a meeting at Sporting Park earlier this season. Chicago will be playing tomorrow without defender, Gonzalo Segares, who is suspended for the game after picking up a yellow card against Montreal.

Sporting KC for their part did look much better defensively against DC United than they had in a while. The shutout was KC's first against a team not named Chivas USA  in league play since a 1-0 win over Portland in late June. KC though will have to replace one member of the back line that got that draw though as Seth Sinovic will miss the game due to yellow card accumulation. The question for who will fill in for him could rely on whether Aurelien Collin is ready to return to the team after his ankle injury. In this week's press conference, Peter Vermes said Collin was questionable but was feeling more positive about him by the day. If Collin can go, Kevin Ellis can slide from the center of defense to the left back position to fill in for Sinovic. If Collin can't go, the left back position may go to another returning player, Jacob Peterson. "The Answer," normally a forward has played in the back for Kansas City already so him filling in for Sinovic would not be a surprise. Also in the back, Andy Gruenebaum has been given the green light by Vermes and will be the starter going forward for KC.

Juliao - Ellis - Besler - Peterson
Nagamura - Olum
Sapong - Dwyer - Zusi

Number to remember - 51 - That's how many consecutive sellouts that Sporting has at Sporting Park in MLS competitions. Dating back to an early season game in 2012, Sporting has sold out every game since then. That streak is likely in jeopardy tomorrow night because of a number of factors both locally and nationally. First tomorrow, before Sporting even takes the field, the US men's national team takes on Ecuador at 6pm CST in the final national team appearance for Landon Donovan. That game alone will draw some fans away from the game, but then locally there are things bigger than that. The KC Royals begin play in their first ALCS in 29 years tomorrow in Baltimore, with the first pitch occurring less than 30 minutes before kick off. Finally less than an hour away from Sporting Park, Late Night at the Phog, the tip off of the KU basketball season starts at 6:30. So there are a number of things that will pull people away from Sporting Park. And even if the game is an announced sellout, I'd expect there to be a number of empty seats.

Key Match Up - Benny Feilhaber vs Jeff Larentowicz - For Sporting KC to be successful down the stretch, Feilhaber is going to need to get back to his early season form when he was almost unstoppable in the midfield. Tomorrow he'll match up against Chicago's captain, which should be fun to watch.

PREDICTION - Kansas City has just one win at Sporting Park against the Fire since the stadium opened in 2011. That was a 2-0 win in 2012 when Graham Zusi scored a brace. Since that win, KC has draw their two games at Sporting Park against the Fire. With the Fire making a habit of drawing not just at Sporting Park, but this season as a whole I see this one tomorrow going the same way and Sporting having to continue to wait to clinch a playoff spot.

SKC - 0
CHI - 0

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