Friday, August 26, 2016

Match Day 28: Finishing the Long Haul

Sporting Kansas City end their five cities in 15 days tour of three countries tomorrow in Philadelphia where Sporting KC take on the Philadelphia Union. Sporting have so far gone 1-1-2 on the trip, winning their loan home game, drawing in Dallas and Trinidad, and losing in Vancouver. Sporting will now try to finish out the stretch in the same location where the club lifted their last trophy last season before taking a break for next week's international break.

Philadelphia is coming into tomorrow's game having also played a midweek game, defeating the Columbus Crew 2-1 in Columbus on Wednesday night. Unlike Sporting in Vancouver, Philadelphia put out their first 11 for the game. The Union had a busy summer transfer window, adding the likes of Roland Alberg and Alejandro Bedoya to their team in their push for the playoffs. Currently Philadelphia sits in a tie for third in the East with 37 points, nine clear of seventh place Orlando City. They'll also have a resurgent Chris Pontius who leads the team in scoring with 10 goals, and familiar face, CJ Sapong, who is finally regularly being played as a center forward.

Kansas City's issue heading into this game is a familiar one, a lack of center back options. Lawrence Olum and Nuno Coelho are both missing the game tomorrow due to injury, while Kevin Ellis (who has played 325 of 360 minutes played since the start of the Dallas game) is suspended for an elbow during the game against Vancouver at Children's Mercy Park. That leaves just Matt Besler and Ike Opara as the only centerbacks on the roster who will be available tomorrow. Both players are coming off injuries themselves (MCL sprain and ankle injury). While Peter Vermes made it seem like he wasn't sure on how long Opara could go, both starting tomorrow seems likely. If one can't go, then KC is in a bind of who they play in centerback, the likes of Roger Espinoza, Saad Abdul-Salaam, and Soni Mustivar all options. Elsewhere on the field things seem more straight forward as the midfielders and forwards look like they'll be the same as last Saturday.

Peterson - Dwyer - Davis
Espinoza - Feilhaber
Medranda - Besler - Opara - Zusi

Number to Remember - 139 - That's how many days it has been since Kansas City last won a road game against a first division team. KC last one on the road against a first division team when they beat the New York Red Bulls 2-0 at Red Bull Arena on April 9th.

Key Match Up - Graham Zusi vs Chris Pontius - With Saad Abdul-Salaam getting the full 90 minutes on Tuesday in the CCL I'd expect Zusi to play his third game this year at right back for Kansas City. This time he'll likely face his most challenging match up against the likely comeback player of the year in Chris Pontius. Pontius leads Philadelphia with 10 goals so far this season, so for someone who is still working his way into the position it could be a difficult one for Zusi.

PREDICTION - Philadelphia is winless this season in weekend games after a midweek game, while KC has the long winless streak on the road. I'm not so sure that something gives tomorrow, I think Kansas City's starters will be more rested for tomorrow's game after Vermes put out a reserve lineup in the CCL. But then again even with a rest lineup Kansas City has had issues on the road. I wanna say that Kansas City will be able to get a draw tomorrow against the Union, but at the same time the team's play on the road for the last couple months hasn't given me any confidence that they can go out and get three points in a road game.

SKC - 1 (Dwyer)
PHI - 2 (Pontius, Sapong)

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