Match previews

Match preview: Sporting Kansas City vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: 215pix

Who: Philadelphia Union (2020: 2-1-2, 8 points, MLS is Back: 3-0-1) vs. Sporting Kansas City (4-1-0, 12 points, MLS is Back 3-1-0)
What: 2020 MLS is Back Tournament Quarterfinals
Where: ESPN World Wide of Sports, Orlando, Florida
When: Thursday, July 30, 8 p.m.
Watch: ESPN, ESPN app
Whistle: Referee Ramy Touchan; Assistant referees Micheal Barwegen and Jeremy Kieso; Fourth official Allen Chapman; VAR Robert Sibiga

The Union and Sporting KC are not unfamiliar foes when it comes to summer tournaments and elimination games, as Union fans will remember when Sporting claimed the US Open Cup title in Chester in 2015.

The last time these two teams met, it was early March in 2019, with Marco Fabian receiving an infamous red card for landing on an SKC player en route to a defeat for the Union.

Scouting report: Kansas City

Kansas City is one of the squads who can be really good or just okay depending on how they match up on the day. They sport longtime MLS veterans Matt Besler, Tim Melia and Graham Zusi, paired with young homegrowns such as Daniel Salloi and Gianluca Busio, Sporting has a good mix of youth and veterans in their squad.

In attack, Sporting also boosts some serious international talent, with Gerso Fernandes at forward, Alan Pulido being the recent addition at striker and Johnny Russell in attack as well. Gerso hasn’t featured much as of yet in the MLS is Back Tournament, but he has appeared in all of Sporting’s matches, starting one. He has tallied one goal, scoring against Real Salt Lake in the group stage. New man Alan Pulido has been much more influential, starting in all 4 of MLS is Back matches notching a goal and 3 assists. Although his one goal was a penalty, Pulido has been influential in setting up Khiry Shelton in the tournament, and assisting both goals in their win over Salt Lake. Lastly is Johnny Russell, the offensive player of the year for Sporting in 2019, tallying 9 goals and 11 assists. In the tournament, Russell has started 3 of 4 games and scored in under a minute against Real Salt Lake. In short, the Sporting attack has been warming up as the tournament goes on.

In the back, Sporting have long time goalkeeper Tim Melia, who has started 3 matches in the tournament due to receiving a red card in the first group match. Melia also came up big for Sporting in the Round of 16, saving 2 penalties against Vancouver in the shootout. Sporting’s back line also consists of longtime MLS and USMNT veterans Matt Besler at centerback and Graham Zusi at outside back. Besler has long been a centerpiece of the back line, with Zusi becoming an outside back later in his career, being able to use his midfield background to be able to get higher up the pitch into the attack.

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Once again the Union squad is near full fitness. Sergio Santos and Andrew Wooten are now fully fit, both of them were able to make the squad for the Round of 16 match, with Santos scoring the game winner of course. The only injury concern is Warren Creavalle, who picked up a hamstring injury in training. If Jose Martinez loses discipline, the Union may be thin at defensive midfield.

The centerback pairing for the tournament seems to have been set with McKenzie and Elliott starting in the Round of 16, with McKenzie still not rotating out of the starting lineup. For those of you hoping to see a Matej Oravec debut soon, it does not seem likely that it will come during the tournament, with Union manager Jim Curtin stating that he and Cole Turner are currently fighting for a spot in the squad. Those looking for more subs from Curtin may also be disappointed, as the Union have an advantage over Kansas City with one more rest day before the match. You can still probably bet on three subs being made, with your options of Ilsinho, Creavalle, Fontana and Glesnes.

Kacper Przybylko also may be poised for a breakout game, after stating that he sees his time in the finals of the tournament. Remember last year when Kacper told Atlanta to be ready for the Union, he scored in that game and the Union won. Przybylko has backed up his talk, lets see if he does it again.

Key matchup: Union attack vs Sporting’s veteran backline.

Sporting probably has one of the most experienced defensive units in all of MLS. Will Sergio Santos, Brenden Aaronson and Przybylko be able to break them down? The Union will hope to find an answer to beat Tim Melia, who has been a big reason his team is even in the Round of 16.

Prediction: Philadelphia 1-0 Sporting Kansas City

Much like the New England match, the Union find a goal against the run of play in the second half after absorbing pressure from Kansas City. Most matches these two teams have played have been tight and competitive, add in the elimination factor and this match will be a nail bitter.


  1. I like the Union. But they have to do better at making and taking chances. It’s time Przbylko nets one.

  2. I think its going to be extremely tough to keep KC off the board, even with Blake and the D playing so well. I think the U need to score at least 2. One from Kacper and maybe Bedoya to make up for last match. 2-1 Union.

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    Union have to play their first complete game of the tournament and covert the chances they get. Sounds obvious, but I think they have been fortunate Blake has made a few outstanding saves, and they have flubbed a few chances. I don’t think they’ll be able to win 1-0 and defend their way through. Net a couple tonight.

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