The Union look to keep the good times coming at home against a solid SKC side, with both teams needing points to stay ahead in the playoff race.
The Union are coming off of a 2-1 win in Columbus this Wednesday that completed a season sweep of their Ohio foes and gave the U three precious points towards making the playoffs. Rookies Fabian Herbers and Keegan Rosenberry tallied in the match. Sporting Kansas City defeated Vancouver 2-0 in KC on Saturday, so they’ll have a bit of a rest advantage going into Saturday’s fixture. The Union have struggled against teams from the West this year as well, going 0-3-5 against them.
The Union are tied for third in the East with RBNY; both teams are on 37 points with eight games remaining (and two of those are against each other) and eight points above the red line. SKC is in fifth in the West on 38 points and six points above the red line with seven matches remaining. A win for either team would go a long way towards solidifying a playoff spot.
SKC has given the Union a lot of heartbreak in the last year. First was the 3-2 loss in Kansas City in which SKC scored two goals in stoppage time to turn a potential 2-1 loss into a 3-2 win; Jalil Anibaba scored a minute into stoppage to equalize for the home side, and three minutes later, Union nemesis Krisztian Nemeth put another ball past former Union keeper Rais M’bolhi to give SKC the win. The shocking loss for the Union coupled with M’Bolhi’s poor play would mark the match as the last time the Algerian saw the pitch for the Union.
League play isn’t the only place Sporting haunted the boys in blue last year. They beat the Union in the US Open Cup Final in PPL on September 30th on penalties to deny the Union their first trophy. Following yet another Sebastien Le Toux goal in the Open Cup, Nemeth scored on a beautiful curling shot to level the match at one in the second half. Neither side could break through in regulation or extra time, so penalties decided the match 7-6, with Andrew Wenger taking a poor penalty and Jordi Quintilla scoring his to give SKC the trophy and a slot in the CONCACAF Champions League once again.
Rookies Joshua Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry will have to come up big not only in this match but down the stretch as well, as the Union’s defense has been questionable at best after being stellar earlier in the year. A large part of the defensive swoon can be attributed to the losses of Vincent Nogueira and more recently Brian Carroll, along with Ken Tribbett’s play taking a dip as well. Alejandro Bedoya brings a Nogueira-esque calm to the midfield now however, and he does the defensive work Vincent did as well. Warren Creavalle has been good recently as a number 6 in Carroll’s place when he’s not asked to do too much. They’ll have to see if they can put it all together before the playoffs or risk missing them.
Potential first XI: Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Yaro, Rosenberry; Creavalle, Bedoya; Pontius, Barnetta, Herbers; Sapong
Prediction: The Union get a point but can’t quite grab all three, continuing their stretch of futility against Western Conference teams. Union 1, SKC 1