Sporting KC went to Toronto on July 26 and pulled out a 2-1 win despite playing a man down when Jacob Peterson scored the winning goal in the 80th minute. Things will be different this time around at Sporting Park. History suggests good things for SKC who are 7-2-1 (W-T-L) vs TFC at Sporting Park. However, this Toronto squad resembles nothing of the past.
Here’s 5 things to look for tomorrow night
1. Can the Sporting defense handle Defoe?
Sporting got lucky last month as Tottenham Hotspur transfer and England international Jermain Defoe was suspended for the match due to yellow card accumulation. There’s a chance KC will get lucky a second time--MLSSoccer.com is reporting that his status is questionable for the match– but the defense needs to be prepared to face what could be the best in-the-box striker they’ve faced all season.
2. Can Sporting establish control early in the match?
At BMO Field, the team came out of the gates sloppy and undisciplined. Toronto played aggressively to start the game, and Sporting responded to TFC by matching their opponent’s game instead of establishing the high-pressure, slow building brand of Sporting soccer that we’re used to seeing.
Early on, Collin had a messy give-away near the box, which could’ve led to a chance for TFC striker Gilberto–had Besler not stepped in from behind to clear the ball. Additionally, the midfield was feeding Dwyer a steady diet of lobs from deep, despite the fact that Dwyer’s weakness belongs in the air. His strengths revolve around his first touch and his ability to finish inside the box.
Ultimately, Sporting’s lack of game control led to conceding the first goal from a sloppy defensive effort by Collin and Julião.
3. Will Dwyer and Zusi take advantage of TFC’s still-decimated back line?
Three quarters of TFC’s defense is either questionable or out for the match. Captain Steven Caldwell is, again, out with tear in his quadriceps. Right back Mark Bloom, who also missed the previous contest at BMO Field, is at the tail end of his recovery from an MCL injury. Defender Doneil Henry, who started in the last contest, is questionable with an illness.
Sporting needs to harness the synergy of their front line, which is the one spot where the injury bug hasn’t buzzed around (*knocks on wood*) . Peterson, Mr. Game Winner from the previous match between these two, is expected to start on the right wing. This leaves CJ Sapong free to come off the bench to utilize his size and speed late in the game against a tired, inexperienced Toronto back four.
4. After playing extremely sluggish vs Vancouver, can Sporting turn it around for a key Eastern Conference match?
As team CEO Robb Heineman put it on Twitter: “We were horrible…..play like that, we’ll miss the playoffs….absolute s.”
Last game needs to be as much of a memory–hint: ZERO– as the 2-1 loss to the Philly Union back in May. The team just didn’t look like itself in either game. Under Vermes, such performances are an anomaly.
SKC was gassed after winning five straight on the road. Tomorrow, they return home and no-longer carry the monkey-0n-their-back of the club-record streak.
Sporting is 2-1-2 after a loss this season. Both of the losses after a loss coming in May, when the team struggled. Under Vermes and in front of a home crowd, you can bank on a tie at the worst, a statement win at best.
5. How will Jon Kempin handle his first MLS start?
Just last month, Kempin was playing for Jimmy Nielsen’s USL Pro squad, Oklahoma City FC. Tomorrow, he’ll be starting in goal for the team’s most important match of the month. Kempin had a strong showing in the preseason, and has performed well in US Soccer’s third-tier with OKCFC. His team didn’t lose a match from the end of May until mid July, and its 32 goals conceded rank in the middle of the league.
Coming to KC, he will have the league’s best defense in front of him. Eric Kronberg morphed from a career backup to the league’s top keeper under Besler, Collin, and Co. The key questions are will he be able to prove his ability to distribute and can he avoid costly mental lapses.
Against Vancouver, he performed admirably although he displayed flashes of inexperience.
A quick, in-depth look at how he performed outside the well-discussed penalty-kick save.
- Distribution was non-existent as he opted to tap or roll it to the closest defender. His one piece of true distribution came in the 62 minute when he booted it past midfield to Dom Dwyer, who was covered by two Whitecaps. That’s not an optimal situation for a team that likes to dominate possession.
- Positioning wasn’t optimal either.He was caught on his heels on the 65th minute crosser to Darren Mattocks, opting to allow Peterson to challenge him for the header instead of going for the punch.
The Whitecaps corner kick in the 69th minute also caught him overcommitting to the wrong side, as the Whitecaps’ header toward goal was saved by Benny Feilhaber protecting the left post.
This time, he’ll be entering the match with a starter’s mindset and preparation. Despite some technical flaws displayed against Vancouver, he should be good enough to lead this team to a win so long as the back line protects him.