Match preview: The Union take their winning mindset to Sporting KC
Philadelphia Union (5-8-8) at Sporting KC (11-5-5)
What: Major League Soccer regular season match
When: Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET; Where: Sporting Park, Kansas City, KC. Tickets: N/A
TV: NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra
Radio: None; Online: Streaming video via MLS Live
Follow the action via Twitter: @TheUMatchday; Game notes (PDF): click here
This week has been a whirlwind of emotions for every Philadelphia Union fan. Apprehension, hesitation, surprise and revelation were all natural feelings over the past couple of days.
But focus must now switch to strictly business because tomorrow is game day.
On Friday, at 8 pm, the Union will kick off against Eastern Conference leaders Sporting KC. Sporting boasts what may be the league’s most complete team. With 31 goals scored this season they are top ten in the MLS in that department.
Most of this can be attributed to three components, forward Dom Dwyer, and midfielders Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber. First, let’s look at Dwyer.
Second in the league in scoring, first in shots taken, Dwyer is the MLS forward of the future. At 24 he plays with a youthful exuberance and flair commonly seen in leagues abroad. He also plays with the poacher’s mentality that takes him to the next level, and places him the in elite class for strikers.
Zusi became a household name because of his stint with the US Men’s National Team at this summer’s World Cup. At the tournament Zusi played significant minutes in every game and provided the assist for what may be the biggest goal in US soccer history: the corner that found the head of John Brooks against Ghana. His experience and class are what make him special; he has played against the best and understands his role on Sporting well.
Finally, we come to Benny Feilhaber, the number 10 for Sporting who is making a legitimate case for MLS MVP through the first half of the season. Feilhaber is up for Player of the Month for July and man believe he is a major reason why Sporting hauled in 13 points this the month, and never recorded a loss. A demonstrative number 10 who can provide a delicate through pass, while also striking a superb free kick into the top corner in the same game. Feilhaber has it all.
- Click for Feilhaber's splendid free kick goal: SKC free kick goal
On the defensive end Sporting KC is even more impressive, only allowing 19 goals against this season, which is good enough for the second best tally in the league. It takes a lot to break down this compact group, and making the most of the few oppurtunities you have is what it takes to deflate this steadfast backline.
What this game will come down to for Philadelphia is match ups, and more importantly understanding your role. If you’re Mo Edu stay in the middle of the field, and don’t get caught in attack unless significant cover is provided. If you’re Vincent Nogueira it’s all about changing the point of attack, get the ball take a touch and switch fields. If you’re Conor Casey, score, and then score again. Sporting does have a reliable backline but Casey has proven no matter the quality in defense his nose for goal is superior. Also, the loss of Besler, who is the rock of the Sporting defense will only help the Union's cause in front of net.
If the Union want to get out of Sporting Park with a result it’s going to a take serious team effort similar to what we saw against the Red Bulls. Curtin has made changes that have yielded positive results, believing they can capture a point or three is a mindset that must be established before the team steps on the plane.
The all-time series between the two teams is close to even as the Union are 3-4-3 overall and are 2-2-1 while playing away from the friendly confines of PPL against Sporting.
The good news, in May of this year the Union accomplished what they look to do on Friday, a 2-1 result against Sporting. If tomorrow can go that well there will be a lot of happy Boys in Blue.
Can the Union leave KC with a result? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Doug Ammon at email@example.com