Union-Sporting Kansas City Preview
It's been a decade since Sporting Kansas City opened a season with consecutive losses. To avoid that fate, they'll have to overcome the Philadelphia Union - and possibly fatigue - Sunday afternoon at Children's Mercy Park.
While this will be just the second game for the Union following Saturday's 3-1 season-opening loss to Toronto, KC will be playing for the fifth time in the past 18 days.
Sporting posted a pair of victories over Toluca in the CONCACAF Champions League by a combined 5-0 score on Feb. 21 and 28 before kicking off its MLS season with a 2-1 road loss to Los Angeles FC on Sunday. Kristzian Nemeth scored for KC in the 16th minute, but LAFC struck twice in the second half with Adama Diomande netting the winner in stoppage time.
KC then traveled to Panama on Wednesday and dropped a 2-1 decision to Independiente in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals, with Ilie Sanchez netting the lone tally on a penalty kick.
"I thought that we gave the ball away too much in the game which led to a lot of counters for them," Sporting coach Peter Vermes said. "I would sum it up by saying that that's the number one thing. I just really think that we gave the ball away way, way too much tonight."
Now after playing three straight road games in three different time zones in three separate countries, Vermes' club will try to avoid its first 0-2 MLS start since 2009, when the franchise was known as the Kansas City Wizards.
Vermes made eight changes to his lineup Wednesday from the MLS opener and figures to do some more tinkering with his group for Sunday's match.
Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin knows KC has been busy but won't let his team take anything for granted.
"They have had a busy schedule so far," he said. "They have a lot depth, you look at their bench, they have a lot of 10-year MLS pros. Top players that are sitting on the bench. They have a nice strong, stable of players. It's a really strong team from top to bottom. We'll have to be on top of our game."
The Union also will be trying to avoid consecutive defeats to open a season for the first time since starting 0-3 in 2012. Marco Fabian scored on a penalty kick in the 73rd minute in his MLS debut to account for the Union offense in the opener.
Philadelphia outshot Toronto 17-8 and had a decided advantage in possession.
"There are still a lot of good things from the performance, and we won't let one result define this group because this group has too much quality and is too strong," Curtin said. "I think character is how you bounce back from a disappointing loss."
The Union won the lone matchup last season, 2-0, on Sept. 23 to improve to 2-0-1 in the last three meetings. Philadelphia, however, is 0-1-2 in its last three visits to Kansas City.
After dropping its first four road matches last season, Philadelphia rebounded to go 6-5-3 in its final 14 away contests. Those six road victories were the third-most in the Eastern Conference.
Kansas City will be without midfielder Roger Espinoza after he received a red card in Saturday's loss to LAFC.
Updated March 8, 2019