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Hackworth: Sporting KC most dangerous attacking team in MLS

CHESTER, Pa. -- The Philadelphia Union sure haven't had a chance to ease into interim manager John Hackworth's tenure.

After hosting first-place D.C. United last week, second-place Sporting Kansas City comes to PPL Park Saturday night.

"First off, I think they're one of the best teams in the league," Hackworth said during Wednesday's weekly press conference at PPL Park. "And I say that in a sense that, attacking wise, if there's someone in this league that's as dangerous as they are, we probably haven't seen it, at least on film. They're extremely dangerous, literally every time they get the ball over the halfway line. Matchups are always hard. They're strong. They're fast. There's some size there. So we have some challenges in front of us for sure."

Expect to see similar styles clash on Saturday. Philadelphia's relatively new 4-3-3 will take on Sporting's relatively familiar 4-3-3. The Union played against Colorado and Toronto's 4-3-3 styles earlier this season.

"Every opponent is different," Hackworth explained. "We've watched a lot of game film on (Kansas City), both home and away. They tend to play a little bit differently away sometimes. But it's the same team, and we have to adjust a little bit in how we're playing in a 4-3-3."

Of course, there is the possibility that one, or both teams could show a different formation on Saturday. Sporting head coach Peter Vermes surprisingly used a defensive 4-2-3-1 shape last year at PPL Park. Luke Sassano and Birahim Diop played as holding midfielders in a game that ended in a scoreless draw.

Vermes went back to the 4-3-3 in the September return match at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi and Jeferson were all added to a much more attack-minded starting XI. That game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Vermes hasn't really strayed from the 4-3-3 in 2012. He kept the shape intact in Wednesday night's 1-1 draw at Seattle. Starters Zusi, C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara came off the bench in the midweek tilt.

"We have to maximize some things that we do well and minimize some areas where we know they're better than us," said Hackworth. "I'm not going to tell all of the secrets here, but you can bet that we're working on that and have been. I expect it to be a great matchup. Two teams that are definitely attacking teams right now. I hope we continue the way we attacked from last Saturday and do that here again."

The Union 4-3-3 is a bit more possession-oriented than Kansas City's 4-3-3. Sporting has bigger bodies on the front line and they like to serve dangerous balls into the box. Forwards Sapong, Kamara and Teal Bunbury all stand taller than 6-1.

"Obviously Kansas City is a good team and they're a very athletic team," said Union midfielder Freddy Adu. "They're probably the biggest team in the league. We've got to be ready, defending set pieces and crosses into the box as well. We're not a very big team so we have to really make it uncomfortable for them and deny as many crosses as we can coming into the box, and fouls around the box as well."

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