Just three points shy of the 8th and final playoff spot, the Kansas City Wizards will arrive at PPL Park hungry and ready in their rematch vs Philadelphia. In their first meeting back in early June, Kansas City knocked off the Union 2-0, on two first half goals. Philadelphia dug themselves into a hole early in that one, giving up a goal to Kei Kamara in just the 9th minute.
The good news Saturday for Philadelphia is that Kamara is not on the trip. The Wizards top goal scorer is on international duty with Sierra Leone as they play a couple of matches in African Nations Cup qualifying. After Kamara’s eight goals, the next top scorer on Kansas City’s team is midfielder Davy Arnaud, with three.
KC is a tough team to figure out. They lead MLS in shots on goal, but are tied for 14th in goals scored. They often play an entertaining style of soccer in a 4-3-3 formation with winger Ryan Smith very dangerous up high on either flank. Defensively, the veteran central defender Jimmy Conrad is their anchor, in front of Danish goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen who has had a terrific first season in MLS, with eight shutouts and a 1.10 goals against average.
The Wizards, under Head Coach Peter Vermes, have won two straight, outscoring their opponents 6-1. They are 3-1-1 in their last five.
One player to watch for is number nine Teal Bunbury. The rookie out of the University of Akron is a dangerous player possessing speed, skill, and confidence. He won the MAC Hermann Trophy last year as the best player in college soccer. Still, he was picked number four overall, while the Union’s Danny Mwanga was the overall top pick.
We mentioned in an earlier column that Mwanga could one day end up on the USA National Team, and the same could be said for Bunbury. Like Mwanga, Bunbury will have a choice, as his father is a former Canadian international. Canada really wants to get Bunbury in their uniform, but so far Bunbury has avoided that call and has stayed neutral when the question of USA or Canada comes up. He may have to make a decision sooner, rather than later.
As for the Union, can they take some confidence into Saturday’s game after their last two good results? The comeback win vs New England was a character building victory, followed up by Wednesday’s win vs Chivas of Guadalajara. The best thing about the win vs Chivas was that it was without Sebastien Le Toux and Alejandro Moreno, who were resting minor bumps and bruises. Philadelphia hopes that both are ready to go Saturday.
What kind of role will Roger Torres, Justin Mapp, and Jack McInerney play in this one, following their performance in the last two games?
We’ll find out Saturday.