Match preview: Union always play Sporting tough and wants Saturday to be no different


Sporting Kansas City (14-11-7. 49 points) at Philadelphia Union (9-11-12, 39 points)

What: Major League Soccer regular season match; When: Saturday, 7 p.m. (kickoff 7:08 p.m)

Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa.; Tickets: purchase tickets

TV: The Comcast Network featuring play-by-play announcer JP Dellacamera and color analyst Peter Pappas

Radio: None; Online: Streaming video via MLS Live; Social: Follow the action via Twitter: @TheUMatchday; Parking: $20 at all PPL Park approved lots; Game notes (PDF):

Mass transit: Shuttle service to and from Chester Transportation Center



They call them statement games.

This would be one of them.

With playoffs hopes dashed last week following a heartbreaking loss to Columbus, the Union look to close out its last two matches on a high beginning with a Saturday night home final at PPL Park against Sporting Kansas City (7 p.m., purchase tickets).

For Sporting, it locked up a fourth consecutive playoff appearance with its 2-0 win over Chicago last Saturday, but still seek its first road win since a 4-0 defeat of Chivas USA over a month ago (Sept. 12). Earlier this week, midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler were called up to the U.S. men’s national team for a friendly against Honduras, both of which played deep into the match before being subbed out.

It’s uncertain (but doubtful) Sporting head coach Peter Vermes will rest those two telling the club’s web site this week that playing in multiple games on both the international and club level is “all part” of the game.

While those two are a handful, whichever Union center back pairing utilized by interim manager Jim Curtin will need to keep wraps on Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer, who enters the match with a team high 21 goals on the season in just 31 matches (29 starts). Dwyer has scored four goals alone in the club’s last five matches including the game winner last week against Chicago to secure Sporting a spot in the postseason.

However, this same unit has always found it hard either home or away against the Union, with Philadelphia already holding the edge this season with a 1-0-1 record this season against Sporting.

“Peter Vermes has done a heck of a job,” Union manager Jim Curtin noted in his press conference earlier this week. “They’re a club that is in the upper echelon of our league right now. They’re a top team. They’re the defending champs. They play a straight 4-3-3 [formation], so you know what you’re getting from them. They play the same way every game whether they’re missing three or four guys or whether they have their full cast available.”

Despite coming up short over the past few weeks the Union will be looking to build on a solid year at PPL Park. The club has already set a franchise record for goals scored (28) at PPL Park this season, surpassing the previous record of 24 in 2011.

In the home finale, getting a few more goals in front of the hometown fans is the main mindset for a club already scheming to make major changes for a bigger and better 2015 season.

What can help that however is doing everything possible and finishing 2014 the right way.

“We’ve had some success against [Sporting] this year, which has been good,” said Curtin. “We won at their place and had a draw. Guys do have confidence that they can go toe-to-toe with them. We’ll put a team on the field that will try to get at some of their weaknesses just like any other team.

Curtin then paused and added:

“Finish the season the right way, that’s the message to our guys. There’s an easy way to do it and a wrong way to do it which is to bail out and feel sorry for [ourselves]. There are still guys that should be fighting for next season and playing hard for our fans at our last home game at PPL Park.”

What do you think is a game plan for success against Sporting? Leave your comment below.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at

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