Match previews / Union

Match Preview: Sporting Kansas City vs. Philadelphia Union 3/2/2024

Photo: Ron Soliman

Who: Philadelphia Union vs Sporting Kansas City

What: MLS Regular Season

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

When: Saturday, March 2nd, 8:30 PM EST

Watch: Free on Apple TV – MLS Season Pass

Whistle: Not available at the time of publication

The Philadelphia Union will contest their first away game of the regular season against Sporting
Kansas City. The Union kicked off their league campaign with an exciting but ultimately
frustrating draw in the home opener. SKC also opened with a draw after tying the Dynamo in
Houston. The Boys in Blue will be playing on short rest after dispatching Saprissa at home in the
CONCACAF Champions Cup.

Scouting Report: Sporting Kansas City

Despite a poor first half to their 2023 campaign, Kansas was able to make a dramatic turnaround
down the stretch. Key players returned to health and hit their stride. They improved from dead
last in MLS to a conference semi-final appearance, before suffering defeat at the hands of rival
Houston Dynamo.

Their squad is experienced, if aging, and boasts a formidable front three when healthy. Similar to
the Union, Sporting was largely able to retain the same core players. They have experience and
leadership at defense in Andreu Fontas and longtime Goalkeeper Tim Melia. MLS veteran
Memo Rodríguez provides a good option off the bench.

Head Coach Peter Vermes favors a 4-3-3 and any one of the attackers is good for a goal. Alan
Pulido is a solid striker. He can usually rely on good service from wingers Johnny Russel and
Daniel Sallói. Both are dangerous forwards with European and international experience.

Most significant for this game is that SKC did not play midweek. They have only played one
competitive match in 2024. The Union have already logged three, including travel to Costa Rica
and extra time in leg two. KC has a greater home advantage than normal due to the mileage and
minutes already starting to build up on the Union’s starters.

Injury Report: Logan Ndenbe (OUT)

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union
The Union have largely played well in their first three matches of 2024, all things considered.
Despite uncharacteristic defensive miscues, they weathered the storm, literally and figuratively,
in the series with Saprissa. They looked poised to find a winner against the Fire at home but for
the crossbar.

They appear to be playing a more refined version of ‘Union Brand’ attacking soccer this year.
The long ball and counter press are still evident, but there is more effort to work small passing
combinations in the final third to unlock the forwards. The second goal against Chicago is the
best example of this. Much of this new fluidity in attack should be attributed to Quinn Sullivan
and Jack McGlynn’s development.

The biggest question for the Union is squad rotation. Leg one against Pachuca looms on the
horizon and Curtin has acknowledged the fast turnaround. He said the team has to, “go to KC
and try and get points but also realize that we have Pachuca as well on Tuesday…  we’re gonna
have to score a couple goals at home to [have a chance] to move on.”

Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliot have both been shaky and are probably not at 100% following their respective
injuries. Curtin strongly hinted in the presser that Damion Lowe and Elliot would start against Kansas as
they will be suspended in leg one versus Pachuca saying, “…now you factor in the red card to
Jack, Damion picks up a yellow card so he’ll be suspended also against Pachuca so you guys can
probably pick our center-back pairing for Kansas City”.

Due to the short rest and Curtin emphasizing the team’s focus on CONCACAF, rotation will likely
happen for Kansas at some point in the game.

Injury Report: Andre Blake (Questionable), Leon Flach (Out)

Key Matchup: Jim Curtin vs Peter Vermes
The two longest-tenured coaches in MLS will face off in their 9th matchup in league play. Curtin
has the slight edge with 3 wins, however, both of Vermes’s victories took place at Children’s
Mercy Park. Curtin will have a tough test on his hands as he balances getting a result while
ensuring starters are ready to go on Tuesday against Pachuca.

Player to Watch: Quinn Sullivan
Exactly how long he’ll play remains to be seen but his quality and importance to the team is
clear, even this early in the season. Not only is he contributing goals and assists but he’s
enjoyable to watch purely as a fan of the game.

Prediction: 1-1
Taking a point on the road is always respectable, especially given the current context of the
Union’s season. SKC will likely be in contention for a top spot in the west and should pose a
threat to any team at home. However, the Union have shown early signs of rebounding this year
and Curtin could get the squad to gut out a draw on the road.


  1. Rotate the squad again and bring on the starters for 30 minutes at the end MAX. We need to focus on Pachuca.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    I think this is a chance for the Union to take advantage of a team that hasn’t gotten its rhythm yet and pull off a win on the road.
    Unfortunately, with the suspensions, Pachuca is going to be a near impossible task, so I think they should focus on Saturday and let leg 1 on Tuesday play out as it does before deciding how to treat next Saturday and leg 2.

    • This is going to be KC’s home opener and I think Vermes will have KC in sync. I think the Union will play for a point, and perhaps steal a win on the counterattack. That said, I do think we’ll see a strong starting XI from the Union, but perhaps more subs (even at 45 minutes?) than we would normally see.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Agree. Focus on shutting up shop and preventing the away goal against Pachuca. Not a bad idea to practice defending better anyway. Some sloppiness there the last few games.

  3. This is winnable, go for it Union !

    All points will matter this season, the eastern conference will be the toughest !

  4. paulcontinuum22 says:

    Fixture congestion just lessened a bit. Union won’t compete in US Open Cup. Only 8 MLS teams in it; Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, LAFC, RSL, San Jose, Seattle and Sporting KC.

  5. George Diamond says:

    Quick injury updates as per the MLS Player Availability report: Carranza is listed as Questionable with a Thigh injury. For KC Johnny Russell also receives a Questionable (groin) tag while Khiry Shelton is officially Out due to an ankle.

    Russell was previously listed with the same designation last week and started.

  6. Prediction was spot on!

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