Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City | MLS Match Preview
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs SPORTING KANSAS CITY
PPL PARK, Chester, Pa.
Oct. 18, 2014 (WEEK 32, MLS Game #310)
7 p.m. ET (TCN-Phi; KMCI-38; MLS Stream of the Week)
Philadelphia Union conclude their home campaign for 2015 when they meet a Sporting Kansas City side looking for maximum points as the clubs face off Saturday evening at PPL Park. Union saw their playoff hopes dashed last weekend, in a dramatic 3-2 home loss to the Columbus Crew. Sporting are still in the hunt for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, having secured their berth in the postseason last Friday with a 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire.
REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. AR1 (bench): Peter Manikowski; AR2 (opposite): Adam Garner; 4th: Jose Carlos Rivero
Marrufo's MLS Career: 173 games; FC/gm: 23.4; Y/gm: 2.8; R: 34; pens: 50
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: PHI -- Maurice Edu … KC -- Matt Besler, Igor Juliao, Paulo Nagamura
FINED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: PHI -- Fabinho, Raymon Gaddis, Danny Cruz … KC -- Antonio Dovale, Eric Kronberg, Kevin Ellis, Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer
DISABLED LIST: KC -- Ike Opara, Chance Myers (season-ending injury)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
ALL-TIME (11 meetings): Union 3 wins, 14 goals … Sporting 4 wins, 13 goals … Ties 4
AT PHILADELPHIA (5 meetings): Union 1 win, 7 goals … Sporting 2 wins, 6 goals … Ties 2
5/14: KC 1, PHI 2 (Dwyer 80 – Cruz 49; Maidana 81)
8/1: KC 1, PHI 1 (Zusi 54 – Brown 71)
- The teams are meeting for the third time this season. Brian Brown’s goal answered a strike from SKC’s Graham Zusi to leave the teams in a 1-1 draw, Aug. 1 at Sporting Park. On May 14 in Kansas City, Cristian Maidana’s goal quickly answered a late Dom Dwyer and gave Union a 2-1 win.
- Union have won just once in five all-time matches against Sporting at PPL Park, that win coming June 23, 2012. SKC won on their two visits to Chester last year; the first two meetings at PPL Park ended in draws.
- Coaches record: Jim Curtin vs. KC: P1 W0 L0 T1 … Peter Vermes vs. PHI: P11 W4 L3 T4
LAST MEETING (MLS)
- The hosts took the lead early in the second half. Toni Dovale found himself 1-v-1 with Union defender Maurice Edu near the top of the area, and Dovale tapped a pass past him to a streaking Graham Zusi, who finished inside the left post for the 53rd-minute opener.
- But Union found a late equalizer. Raymon Gaddis sent in a cross from the left flank, and substitute Brian Brown got behind his marker to head it into the lower left corner to salvage a point.
- SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Andy Gruenebaum - Igor Juliao, Kevin Ellis, Aurelien Collin, Jacob Peterson - Benny Feilhaber - Jorge Claros, Mikey Lopez (Soony Saad 68) - Antonio Dovale (C.J. Sapong 69), Dom Dwyer (Martin Steuble 89), Graham Zusi.
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Ethan White, Maurice Edu, Raymon Gaddis - Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo - Sebastien Le Toux, Vincent Nogueira (Fred 87), Danny Cruz (Andrew Wenger 67) - Conor Casey (Brian Brown 69).
Philadelphia Union saw their winless streak extended to five games in cruel fashion yet again and were eliminated from playoff contention, following a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Crew on Saturday evening at PPL Park. Union are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 39 points from 32 games.
- Union took the lead in the 68th minute. Amobi Okugo headed a Fabinho cross down into the path of second-half substitute Danny Cruz, and he rifled a shot past Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark for the opener.
- Then just seven minutes the lead was doubled. Vincent Nogueira hit the post from an angled shot on the right, but Andrew Wenger followed up and was able to bundle it over the line from close range to make it 2-0 Union.
- The Crew stormed back with a record three goals in four minutes. In the 78th minute, Ethan Finlay pulled a goal back for the Crew, turning home a Hector Jimenez cross from the right flank.
- Just a minute later, the score was tied when Crew winger Justin Meram dribbled through the Union defense and firing a shot past goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Then the game-winner came in the 82nd minute, as Jairo Arrieta slid onto a Tony Tchani cross from the left flank and put it into the back of the net to complete the stunning comeback.
- Union interim manager Jim Curtin made three changes to the team that drew 1-1 with the Chicago Fire at PPL Park. Ethan White, Sebastien Le Toux and Conor Casey all came back into the team, in place of Fred, Cristian Maidana and Pedro Ribeiro.
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Raymon Gaddis, Ethan White, Carlos Valdes (Antoine Hoppenot 85), Fabinho - Amobi Okugo, Maurice Edu - Sebastien Le Toux (Pedro Ribeiro 80), Vincent Nogueira, Andrew Wenger - Conor Casey (Danny Cruz 58).
- With the defeat, Union were officially eliminated from the chase for the MLS Cup Playoffs, the third consecutive season they’ve failed to reach the postseason after their lone appearance in the 2011 campaign.
- “We haven’t put together too many good seasons. It’s been the fifth year of the club and we’re at a position where we want to be a team that’s fighting to get into the playoffs. The only thing that cures that is winning and winning together and sticking together in the tough times,” said interim manager Jim Curtin. “Right now we’re in a tough time. We’ve been eliminated from the playoffs and we have two games left. That’s not where we wanted to be. It is contagious now, when something goes wrong it tends to go wrong too many times. You get sick to your stomach with it- it’s tough but you have to learn from these moments.”
- Union had their winless streak extended to five matches, with two losses and three draws in that time, following a three-game winning run from Aug. 24-Sept. 6, their longest streak of victories this season.
- The three-goal onslaught to give the Crew the lead and eventual victory was the fastest three goals ever allowed by Union, three goals in the four-minute span.
- “In a lot of ways, this one is somehow worse than even the last one as far as letdowns go,” Curtin said. “To give up two goals on our home field and not be able to hold on is inexcusable from everyone – from the top down. It’s not good enough. And, to be honest, we’re not a playoff team. That’s clear. Over the course of 32 games now, we’ve come up short. To be eliminated on a night like this, you deserve to be when you give up three goals in a [four]-minute span.”
- Danny Cruz scored his third goal this season, his first since June 28, matching his single-season career-high he set last year in his first full season with Union.
- “We’re professional athletes,” said Cruz. “It’s what we live for. We live to win championships, to win games. We don’t take this lightly. I don’t. I feel awful. I feel like we let down the club. I feel like we let down the fans, more importantly.”
- Andrew Wenger scored his seventh goal of the season, his fourth goal over the last eight league matches. Wenger had scored five goals total in his first two MLS seasons.
- Amobi Okugo recorded his first assist of the season, and now has a goal and an assist over the last two matches.
- “We still have a good core of young players, we have to look toward the future now. We have to finish out the season with these last two games but you have to look towards the offseason and adding a couple of pieces just like every team does in the offseason. Those pieces have to be guys that come in and lead and help us close these type of games out,” said Curtin.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City recorded a second consecutive shutout and clinched a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs in the process, defeating the Chicago Fire 2-0 on Friday evening at Sporting Park. Sporting are in a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference with 49 points from 32 games.
- Sporting had a glorious chance to opening the scoring early. Fire fullback Lovel Palmer brought down SKC's Benny Feilhaber in the area in the 12th minute, and referee Kevin Stott awarded the penalty kick. But Dom Dwyer put his spot kick over the bar.
- The opening goal finally came 10 minutes from the end. Graham Zusi took a pass from defender Kevin Ellis outside the Fire box, dribbled through defenders into the top right of the Fire's penalty area, and unleashed a left-footed shot that sailed over Johnson's outstretched right hand and into the upper left corner of the net.
- Sporting salted away the result in the second minute of stoppage time, when Zusi put in a pinpoint cross from the right corner and Dwyer leaped to easily head home.
- Sporting manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that reached a scoreless draw with D.C. United at RFK Stadium. Jacob Peterson came in at fullback for the suspended Seth Sinovic, and Benny Feilhaber started in place of C.J. Sapong.
- SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Andy Gruenebaum - Igor Juliao, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Jacob Peterson (Mikey Lopez 86) - Lawrence Olum - Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber - Antonio Dovale (C.J. Sapong 68), Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi (Soony Saad 94+).
- Sporting secured their berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs for a fourth consecutive season with the victory, snapping a two-game winless run and their second victory in their last eight league matches.
- “I told the guys before we went out that it is important for us to take advantage of what we can control. We had an opportunity to get into the playoffs now and resting ourselves going forward,” said SKC manager Peter Vermes. “That is something we will have to do because we have been through a very difficult time this year. The guys need to get a little break and make sure when we get to the playoffs we have as many healthy bodies as possible.”
- Graham Zusi scored a goal and added an assist, the third time this season he’s had a goal and an assist in the same match. Zusi has four goals and four assists since returning from the World Cup and U.S. national team.
- “We have quite a bit of confidence in where we are right now, as we should,” Zusi said. “We have been playing well, and this one tonight is just a huge win for us. It gives us more confidence and momentum going into the playoffs, which has proven in the past to be huge. Teams that are playing well going into the playoffs typically go pretty far.”
- Andy Gruenebaum recorded his third consecutive shutout in league play, over the last four matches. Gruenebaum has not allowed a goal in his last 308 minutes of service, the fifth-longest individual shutout streak in MLS this season.
- “This was very important,” midfielder Paulo Nagamura said. “Lately we had been poor, I would say, in our home record. To get a clean sheet and to get a win in front of our fans, it was a big boost of confidence.”
- Said Gruenebaum: “Our whole goal was to keep getting shutouts. It was a great defensive effort by the team. We knew that if we were just patient with our buildup and picked good spots to go after them, we were going to get a couple goals. The biggest thing was getting the shutout, and it was a great team effort from top to bottom. We’re getting closer to that playoff form.”
- Dom Dwyer scored his 21st goal of the season, adding to his Kansas City single-season club record for league games. Dwyer did miss a penalty kick, snapping a string of six consecutive spot kick conversions this season.
- “I know, throughout my career, I'm going to miss,” Dwyer said. “I'm going to miss another PK. There's going to be a time I miss an open goal. It's going to happen to everyone. You see Messi. You see Ronaldo. You see the best players in the world missing. That's something you have to deal with in the game, and I've matured and learned to deal with it. I still get 30 seconds where I'm mad, I'm in a mood, and then you brush it off and move on and make sure you put away the next one.”
- Jacob Peterson made his first start since Aug. 10, coming in at left back and playing 86 minutes. It was Peterson’s second start this season at fullback, the first coming all the way back on May 18.
- “I'm very proud of the fact that our team can and is committed to our style of play. And then you add in to the fact that the a guy like Paulo Nagamura is out for two months comes back and plays 85 minutes his first game back, tonight Jake [Peterson] has been out for the last month and he comes in and plays 84 minutes in a position that normally I would never put him in. But I trust him enough to do it and he did a fantastic job in the game.,” said Vermes. “A lot of guys have done a lot of things to help us get here and hopefully in the next couple weeks we can get enough bodies and enough guys strong enough that we can make the push that we need to at the end of the season.”