Sporting Kansas City-Union Preview
A change in coaches wasn't enough to alter the Philadelphia Union's downward spiral, though facing the Eastern Conference's top team likely didn't help.
The Union, winless over their last six in league play, wouldn't appear to catch a break in their second game under John Hackworth as the conference's second-place club, Sporting Kansas City, visits PPL Park on Saturday night.
Philadelphia turned to Hackworth after earning only eight points during its first 11 games this season under Peter Nowak. The Union didn't add to that total during their interim coach's debut, losing 1-0 to D.C. United last Saturday and dropping to 0-5-1 in their last six MLS games.
However, they outshot D.C. 15-7 while falling to 1-4-1 at home this season and had a 7-2 advantage on corner kicks.
"There's new energy in the locker room and we're ready to move forward," defender Sheanon Williams told the league's website. "We know we have a lot of potential in this locker room. We can definitely get results. You could see it tonight. Even though we didn't get three points, we sent a message to everyone else that we can play."
Philadelphia (2-8-2) has shown it can play with Sporting Kansas City (9-3-2) over its first two seasons, forcing draws in each of the last three meetings. The teams played to a scoreless one last June at PPL Park and a 1-all tie at Kansas City on Sept. 23.
The Union, though, have yet to win in any of the four games in the series, and their chances of ending that drought don't appear promising.
Kansas City, one point behind United for the East lead, is 2-0-2 in its last four league games and 4-0-2 across all competitions after losing three straight. The club also has allowed the fewest goals (11) in MLS this season, while Philadelphia has scored a league-low eight with none over the past 214 minutes of regulation.
Sporting, though, might have to play more backups for this game as it is in a stretch of five games over 14 days, including a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal Tuesday.
Kansas City, 0-2-2 in its last four road contests, is expected to have eight players out due to injury or illness for this game. Among those are central defender Matt Besler (appendicitis) and forward Bobby Convey (calf).
Coach Peter Vermes tried to use his team's depth Wednesday in Seattle, but Sporting couldn't hold an early lead and settled for a 1-all tie. Jacob Peterson scored his first goal in two years during the eighth minute, but the Sounders tied the game in the 15th.
"We've got to keep reaching down deep into the roster," Vermes said. "That's how we've got to do it. We've got to do right by our players. They're working hard. They're recovering, and we'll keep assessing game by game."