Saturday, April 04, 2015

Match Day 5: The Union Visit Looking to Bust Another Slump

Sporting Kansas City return home, one week after getting their first win of the season. This weekend they'll play a team that's made Sporting Park a bit of a second home over the past few years. The Philadelphia Union, who I mentioned in this week's Throw Back Thursday is unbeaten in their last three trips to Sporting Park, going 2-0-1 in the three games played here. In fact, two of those three games have seen the Union bust slumps here with wins.

And like those times, Philadelphia again comes into the game in a slump, having gone 0-2-2 so far this year and haven't won in five dating back to a 2-1 win over Kansas City last year at PPL Park. The Union have scored three goals this year, all three came in one game, the club's 3-3 draw in Salt Lake. Two of the goals have been scored by Fernando Aristeguieta while the third was an own goal. Not only have the Union had trouble scoring, but they've also has issues with injuries. At one point this week in practice, they had just 13 players available for practice. They will be without Cristian Maidana, who scored the winner in Philly's 2-1 win in KC last year, defender Sheanon Williams, and Conor Casey, who scored the winner in the Union's 1-0 win in KC in 2013. Also likely out is former Kansas City forward, CJ Sapong who is recovering still from a concussion and facial fracture. On top of all that they will also be without Zach Pfeffer and Fred who are both suspended due to red cards and disciplinary committee actions.

While Sporting's injury concerns are fewer, they are no less sever, as the team will be without Graham Zusi for tomorrow's game due to the hamstring injury that he picked up in the 1-0 win over NYCFC. While Zusi hasn't contributed to a goal this season, he has been very involved in the offense and will leave a hole on the wing for KC. Also of question is the health of the likes of Marcel de Jong, who left Canada's friendly win with a knock, Jimmy Medranda, who also left the NYCFC game with a knock, and Krisztian Nemeth, who just returned to training just this week from a knee sprain. So there are plenty of questions to ask about KC's lineup, specifically when it comes to KC's wing play. Peter Vermes has said that Nemeth would be available and in the 18 this week, the question is if he's available to start for KC. If he can you would expect him to slot in on one of the wings with Medranda if he's able to go on the other wing. If not one would think that Bernardo Anor would get the start on the opposite wing for KC.

The other question on KC's lineup is probably in the midfield, where Sporting will welcome back Roger Espinoza from international duty this week. The question is who he enters the lineup for. Last week at New York Servando Carrasco came in for the Honduran international, sitting a little deeper, allowing Benny Feilhaber to get forward more and more involved in KC's attack. For me I think that Carrasco has earned himself another start in the midfield, mainly because it gets Feilhaber into the attack more. I'd insert Espinoza for Paulo Nagamura in KC's midfield, let him work from end to end in his normal role, allow Feilhaber to create more and let Carrasco distribute deep.

Anibaba - Opara - Besler - de Jong
Feilhaber - Espinoza
Medranda - Dwyer - Nemeth

Number to Remember - 600 - Sporting KC play it's 600th game in league play in team history tomorrow. Like when they hit 500 games, KC will become the first team in MLS history to hit 600.

Key Match Up - Ike Opara vs Fernando Aristeguieta - Aristeguieta has scored two of the Union's three goals, keeping an eye on him tomorrow is going to be key for Kansas City. That duty will likely fall to Kansas City's leading scorer, Opara. If KC can keep him in check this is a game that KC should be able to win.

PREDICTION - This game is perfectly set up for a let down for Kansas City. As I mentioned earlier, any time Philadelphia has come into Sporting Park in a slump, KC has played the part of slump buster and Philadelphia has left with all three points. Like those other games, this is a game that KC should win and really should win going away, and should be an opportunity for Dom Dwyer and Nemeth to get themselves off the mark for this season. Whether that happens or not we'll see, KC's not shown the ability to really put their foot on someone's throat. It really is time for the team to prove they can beat a team they know they are better than.

SKC - 2 (Dwyer, Nemeth)
PHI - 0

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