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Match preview: Union at Kansas City

Photo: Paul Rudderow

What: Union at Sporting Kansas City

Where: Livestrong Park, Kansas City, MO

When: 8:30pm ET, Friday September 23, 2011

Why: Because Columbus plays LA on Saturday, so someone else needs to take over first place


Radio: None

Aurelien Collin bobble head night is a big event in Kansas City, so make sure you are one of the first 10,000 to arrive at Livestrong Park on Friday. And while Collin is collecting his tenth yellow card of the season, you can get a yellow Livestrong bracelet at any entrance. Let’s hope the KC defense gives as much away as its parent club.

Injuries in the back

Unfortunately, things don’t look very rosy on the defensive side for the Union. They will be arriving without two of their key pieces, as Sheanon Williams has been ruled out with a concussion (suffered against Columbus last Saturday) and Faryd Mondragon continues to recover from a finger fracture. For those of us who marveled at Michael Farfan’s turn in center midfield against Columbus (and if you didn’t, how was the Lifetime Original Movie last Saturday?), Sheanon Williams’ injury is a double blow. Marfan is likely to move into a defensive role, with the coaching staff arguing that his speed is needed and CJ Sapong’s eyes lighting up like he just saw Hope Solo wearing his training gear.

Okugo start?

With Marfan in back, Amobi Okugo should be slotting into the midfield next to Carroll. What Farfan gave the team in midfield against the Crew was a reliable, calm and composed presence connecting the defense and the offense. Brian Carroll brings a lot to the table, but offensive flair is not a regular card in his deck. Okugo can take some chances while also helping with the width that KC is sure to use in attack.

It would be very surprising if Zach Pfeffer earned a road start against a KC team that knows how to throw their weight around. There is a strong chance Veljko Paunovic will return to the starting eleven if his calf injury heals, giving Philly more height in the offensive end. Pauno would also allow Seba Le Toux to continue alone up top. The big Serb would slot into the center, pushing Torres and Adu wide in front of Carroll. Of course all this is just speculation. Peter Nowak will look at health, fitness, the opponent, form, the moon position of  Spanish lineup god Rafa the Tinkerer, fingernail length, oil levels, timing belts, jersey name spellings, the maps of Napoleon, the area under a normal curve, Bayes’ Theorem, and number of breadsticks eaten by each potential starter at the Kansas City Applebee’s lunch buffet and then decide on a lineup.

Away matches are different

The Union outshot KC seven to zero in their first meeting. Zac MacMath should expect a bit more work this time around. While Sporting was not special in Chester, Kei Kamara still managed to get off four shots. With Sapong and Bunbury rounding into form around him, the Union would be well-advised to be cautious in over-committing to the attack. For this reason, among others, there is a strong possibility that this match will have its fair share of rough fouls. Philadelphia must keep their heads, because going down to ten will all but require them to sit back and absorb pressure for the remainder of the match.

Sporting put 21 crosses in against Real Salt Lake last weekend. Plays that end in crosses are likely to flow through Graham Zusi in the midfield. A skilled technician, Zusi will be looking to spring Sapong down the wing or play in to Bunbury’s feet so the big striker can find a runner and get into the box. KC is no Houston or Portland, however, and they have more success when they can work the ball in from the wing rather than lofting a cross. The Sporting offense is not a collection of Kenny Coopers. These guys want to take people on and shoot. They aren’t afraid of contact, but they’d rather you didn’t.

What should Adu do?

To be a factor in this match, Freddy Adu must see the ball in the final third. And he must do something with it. A frustrating fact is that Freddy Adu has not been drawing many fouls for the U. Three against Portland was nice, but that is an outlier thus far. Another issue: Shots on goal. How many does Freddy have? One. Against New England.

It’s truly fascinating to find out how Adu will handle the current situation. Roger Torres has been the indisputable offensive hub and his game is of the north-south variety. Adu stood out in the Gold Cup for his distributive abilities. The Union aren’t going to reshape themselves for Adu the way they adjusted to fit Carlos Ruiz’s style. It’s too late in the season for that. So Adu will have to show his maturity and learn to play a vertical, counterattacking game, at least for the short-term.

Why we need it

Put simply, it’s not as important that the Union win this game as it is important that Kansas City does not. KC plays a lot of home games down the stretch and the Union spend most of October away from PPL Park. This is a chance to capitalize on the momentum from a rare win and re-establish playoff credentials. And after a wild New England tie and two shutouts that hardly required his presence, Zac MacMath can truly show he is ready for prime time by defeating Jimmy Nielsen and Sporting Kansas City on their home turf. Game on, boys!

Starting Lineups

Union (4-2-3-1)

MacShutout, Marfan, El Kaiser, Bearfight, Garfan, Linguine, AmoBeast, RoTo, Pauno, L’Adu, Le Toux

Sporting KC (4-3-3)

Nielsen, Harrington, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Espinoza, Julio Cesar, Zusi, Kamara, Bunbury, Sapong

Probable subs


Mwanga, Justguessin, Duck Duckgoose

Sporting KC

Bravo, Arnaud, Jeferson



OUT: Mondragon (finger), Holder (concussion), Williams (concussion), Houapeu (ankle); DOUBTFUL: Mapp (quad); PROBABLE: Paunovic (calf)


OUT: Cyrus (foot), Warzycha (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Diop (back), Sassano (knee); PROBABLE: Myers (foot)

Suspended Next Yellow

Union: None

KC: Zusi

Telegram to Keon Daniel

Dear Keon. We miss you very much. Remember when you scored that header? That was awesome. You do lots of awesome things on the field. Please come back. We can dance like we did in the old days. Eli asks of you often. We haven’t told Mike yet. He might take it too hard. Send word if you can. PSP.

Referee stats

Baldomero Toledo: FC/gm: 25.0. Yellow cards/gm: 3.6. Name Fantastic-ness: 9.7


  • Last meeting, the Union at 26 attempts at goal
  • KC is coming off a 1-0 loss to RSL, their first away match in over two months
  • Last Saturday’s loss in Salt Lake City was the first time KC had been shut out since they left PPL Park in late June
  • This is kinda crazy, but Shavar Thomas plays for Kansas City. If you remember him, you have definitely been a Union fan since the beginning
  • Livestrong Park has 4 radio booths…who needs my resume to make this happen? (not that it would help)


The comment section is open.


  1. If anyone comes across any online feeds of the game let me know please. Can’t wait until next year when MLS is no longer on FSC…..now if we could only get the champions league back on ESPN.

  2. I agree with this statement: “Put simply, it’s not as important that the Union win this game as it is important that Kansas City does not.” A tie is a good result in this one…tough road test for the U. I think it will finish 1-1. Don’t see a win but if we do: 1-0 and if we lose we lose 2-0. Covering all the bases 🙂 Of course I hope I’m wrong and we win 3-0

  3. 2-1 loss. Le Toux scores again but KC has too much offense for the makeshift defense. Macmath and Adu need to step up for us to win this game.

  4. I didn’t even bother with a pre-game report on my blog after Nowak went and started Pfeffer, then brought Morgan Langley off the bench. If the rumors that Migs is starting at right back, I think we may see another 4-conceded-goals first half, like against the Revs. But, with Nowak, Migs may also start at forward alongside Le Toux. Then again, Nowak may activate himself to be the CAM. If Migs is right back, Union almost certainly lose. If he’s in the central midfield, the best they can do is tie. Screw it, go to a 3-5-2, just keep Migs off the pitch.

  5. Love the mash note to Keon Daniel at the end!

  6. Wow so Migs playing RB is a real rumor? Oh my god. We lose.

    I was worried about this game anyway but it’s not even worth watching now. We’ll lose if Miggy plays. Book it. Put it to bed. Sing it to sleep.

    4-1 KC.

  7. No Adu, according to his twitter “Good luck to the union tonight against kansas city. Wish i could be there with them. #Doop”

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