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Match Preview: Sporting Kansas City at Toronto FC

Sporting KC head north of the border in search of their fifth straight road win.

Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports

About the Teams

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC come into this match flying high in league play, winners of five of their last six matches. They've also set the record this season with four straight road wins and are in search of number five as they head to Toronto. They'll have a strong lineup with the only absences being Paulo Nagamura and Eric Kronberg. Sporting KC saw some of their new players debut against Manchester City and with the way Peter Vermes spoke of new defensive midfielder Jorge Claros, we could see him again in this match against Toronto.

Toronto FC

Toronto comes into this match sitting third in the Eastern Conference with three games in hand against the current leaders, Sporting Kansas City. They sit nine points behind SKC and the recent return of Michael Bradley to the lineup can only help their chances in making up points during their games in hand. They'll be missing one of their biggest offensive contributors for this game with Jermaine Defoe out on yellow card accumulation suspension, but Gilberto has been playing better as of late and can contribute for the Reds.

Who to Watch

Sporting Kansas City- Jorge Claros

Jorge Claros made his Sporting Kansas City debut against Manchester City, playing with the second half group. He fit into the team well and Peter Vermes spoke highly of how well he fit into the system. Should he play against Toronto, he'll fill a defensive midfield role that will have to contain Michael Bradley in the middle of the field. If he can keep the middle of the field clogged up while allowing Seth Sinovic and Igor Juliao to shut down the wings, Sporting Kansas City is going to be able to control this game from the back line up.

Toronto FC- Gilberto

Toronto's third, lesser-known, designated player is going to be the target on offense for the Reds with Defoe out. He was frustrating in his first few months with the club but has done better as of late in both finding the net and creating some golden chances. His presence at the top can do two-fold for the Reds, the first being a goal-scoring threat and the second being someone to take the pressure off his partner up top, likely to be Luke Moore. While Toronto's offense certainly takes a hit with Defoe being out, Gilberto can still provide serviceable attacking play.

Why They'll Win

Sporting Kansas City

With Toronto likely playing a 4-4-2, Sporting Kansas City can put Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber in the midfield to try and control possession in the middle of the pitch. If they keep the ball away from Michael Bradley, they should be able to trust the fullbacks to shut down the wings, leaving the front two without any service. Since Sporting already has a nice set of wingers to go with the 4-3-3, they can have both Zusi and Feilhaber in the midfield and not suffer too many consequences on the attack.

Toronto FC

Teams will usually open up and home and try to play the game against Sporting KC, but Toronto's personnel make it possible for them to sit back and spring Sporting KC on the counter. With Dominic Oduro and Jonathan Osorio on the wings, they can catch Seth Sinovic and Igor Juliao when they get too far forward, giving them the ability to overwhelm Sporting KC numbers-wise when the attack swings the other way. Then, if Sporting KC has to sit back and shut down the wings, that opens up the middle a bit more for Bradley to provide service to Gilberto and Moore.

Predictions

Lineups

Sporting Kansas City: Gruenebaum; Juliao, Collin, Besler, Sinovic; Claros, Feilhaber, Zusi; Saad, Dwyer, Sapong.

Toronto FC (From Duncan Fletcher): Joe Bendik; Nick Hagglund, Bradley Orr, Doneil Henry, Justin Morrow; Dominic Oduro, Collen Warner, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio; Gilberto, Luke Moore.

Scoreline

Sporting Kansas City 2-1 Toronto FC