Road-weary Sporting KC home to face Philadelphia Union
Field Level Mediaon
Sporting Kansas City has good reason to be looking forward to its 2019 MLS home opener on Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Union at Children's Mercy Park.
Thanks in part to a pair of Concacaf Champions League road contests, the defending regular-season Western Conference champions just finished an 18-day stretch that saw them travel almost 10,000 miles to three different countries.
"Yeah, it feels good," defender Graham Zusi said. "We have a couple of games in a row at home. It's good to be back in front of the home fans."
The long road trip started on Feb. 28 with a 2-0 victory at Toluca outside of Mexico City - elevation 8,750 feet -- in the second leg of Champions League Round of 16 matchup that Sporting KC won by 5-0 in aggregate.
Three days later the team opened MLS play with a 2-1 loss at Los Angeles FC, yielding the winning goal in the 94th minute. Then came another 3,000-mile flight to Panama where Sporting KC dropped a 2-1 decision to Independiente La Chorrera in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
"Congestion in the schedule is welcome to the new MLS because we shaved off a month at the back of the league," said Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes, whose team will also play host Independiente on Thursday night in the second leg.
Philadelphia, which dropped its season-opener at home 3-1 to Toronto FC, had a week to prepare for Sunday's contest. The Union are trying to build on a sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference that saw them compile a franchise-best 15 regular-season victories including a 2-0 home win over Sporting KC on Sept. 23rd thanks to two late goals by now departed forward Jay Simpson.
"I think character is shown in how you bounce back from a disappointing loss," sixth-year head coach Jim Curtin said. "We recognize it's an opportunity lost at home but one now we have to go on the road to Kansas City."
Sporting KC defender Andreu Fontas is questionable with a hip pointer, while midfielder Jimmy Medranda (knee) is out. Philadelphia defender Mark McKencie (concussion) will not play.