MLS Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday, Aug. 1, 2014
(All times Eastern)
Philadelphia (5-8-8) at Kansas City (11-5-5), 8 p.m.
Kansas City, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - Sporting Kansas City will be out to
extend its lead atop the Eastern Conference on Friday when it plays host to
the Philadelphia Union at Sporting Park.
Kansas City enters the weekend on 38 points, one point better than D.C.
United, which earned a 3-0 win over Toronto FC on Wednesday.
But while D.C. United holds a game in hand over SKC, Sporting can restore its
four-point advantage at the summit, for the time being, by getting a fifth
successive league win on Friday.
It's something the club seems poised to accomplish after it came from behind
to get a 2-1 victory at Toronto last time out, despite playing with 10 men for
a period of the match.
"The one thing that this team has over the years is building up a good culture
at the club, a really strong mentality," Sporting head coach Peter Vermes said
after the match. "It is difficult to come into a place like this and get
points when it is 11 vs. 11 and more importantly when you lose a man. It just
goes to show that not only is the experience starting to come out, that strong
mentality of you might bend me a little but you aren't going to break me. Guys
are showing that here, a lot of the young guys were getting experience early
as we were missing so many guys, are now contributing and helping us get
Kansas City is in good stead to finish at the Eastern Conference summit, a
feat that Vermes believes would go a long way toward helping the team repeat
as MLS Cup champions.
"It's really internal motivation, you have to know what you are going after,"
said Vermes. "Last year the thing that really resonated with our team was that
if you put yourself in a good position towards the end of the season in the
table and through the playoffs, there is a chance of home advantage in the MLS
Cup final. That notion is a very big carry at the end of the year."
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is simply hoping to make a postseason appearance.
The Union enter the match on 23 points for the season, three points adrift of
a playoff spot.
A turning point in the club's season came on June 10 when John Hackworth was
relieved of his coaching duties. The Union have gone on to produce a 5-2-2
record across all competitions under interim boss Jim Curtin.
"We are in a really good place right now," Curtin told the club's official
website. "We are finding goals and putting ourselves in good spots to pull
points out of these matches now, which is key if we are looking to lock up
another playoff appearance. It's not going to be easy, we don't have many
favorable games down the stretch, but it's important for this club to know
that we are no stranger to tough games and in quite a few of them, we've come
out on top."
Sporting certainly figures to be a stern test for the Union as Kansas City
will be looking to avenge a 2-1 home loss to Philadelphia on May 14.
Dom Dwyer, who sits level with Erick Torres for second place in the MLS
scoring lead, had pulled Sporting level with just 10 minutes to play in that
affair, but Christian Maidana struck just one minute later to grant the
visiting Union all three points.
07/31 15:19:54 ET