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Sporting KC v Philadelphia Union: Preview, Predictions,Starting XI, Stats, Injuries and Roster Changes

Win or go home.

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MLS: Philadelphia Union at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Philadelphia Union (#PHIvSKC)

When: Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 7:00 PM CT

Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports in Walt Disney World

How to Watch/Stream: ESPN | ESPN Deportes | fuboTV
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish)

And then there were eight. Sporting Kansas City had quite the scare against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday in their first knockout round game. It took penalty kicks and a marvelous Tim Melia performance to push them on to the next round. Melia is the best PK stopper in the league. If it gets to that stage (though I’m not sure my heart can take it), I like SKC’s chances. But it’d be better to win it in regulation and move on to the semi-finals.

The Union, on the other hand, were tested to get to where they are. They beat a deceptively good New England Revolution team in the round of 16 and are battle tested (plus have an extra days rest) coming into Thursday. They are also undefeated in the tournament this year.

The winner of this game will be a in a strong position to come out of their side of the bracket and make the finals of the COVID Cup MLS is Back Tournament.

Interesting Stats

  • The last time these teams met in an elimination game was the 2015 US Open Cup. Sporting won in penalties but long gone is “Jake I Go” Jordi Quintilla to put in a winner.
  • Sporting KC also defeated the Union in the 2012 US Open Cup. That was a semifinals game. These are their lone tournament meetings. Sporting 2, Philly 0.
  • The teams are stunningly even over the years with SKC inching ahead of the Union with a 7-6-6 record across all competitions.
  • “Sporting and Philadelphia haven’t met since March 10, 2019. Since then, both teams have faced every other club in MLS except 2020 expansion sides Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC.” (By the Numbers)

What’s Changed for the Union Since 2019?

This team has definitely gotten better from what was probably the best version of themselves in 2019. The most notable change is not an addition as much as it’s a promotion. 19-year-old midfielder Brendan Aaronson is the man who keeps the midfield moving and he’s been entrusted to be the day one starter this year. He did start 25 times in 2019, but he’s already shown to be a much improved version of himself in 2020. Playing the kids isn’t all bad.

IN: Midfielders Jose Andres Martinez via transfer from Zulia FC (Venezuela) and Matej Oravec via transfer from Dunajska Streda (Slovakia) highlight the bigger names on the list. They’ve also signed more Homegrown players (Cole Turner, Jack de Vries and Nathan Harriel), which the club is known for. Finally the Union added defender Jakob Glesnes via transfer from Stromsgodset (Norway).

OUT: The biggest name is likely midfielder Marco Fabian, their under performing Designated Player who lasted just a single season. The Union also traded away promising center back Auston Trusty to the Colorado Rapids and declined the option of veteran defender Fabinho. An under-rated loss is Haris Medunjanin, who is now with FC Cincinnati. But Philly is going young, so the 33-year-old found his way through the door. Striker Corey Burke is also being forced to be out of the country on loan due to green card issues.


Sporting KC

OUT - Andreu Fontas (achilles surgery), Felipe Gutierrez (knee surgery)

QUESTIONABLE - Khiry Shelton (groin)

*Already updated with a confirmed ‘questionable’ for Shelton after I guessed based on PV’s dodgy responses during the mid-week press conference. The official injury report also removes Kacper Przybyłko for the Union.


OUT - None

QUESTIONABLE - Warren Creavalle (hamstring)


Sporting KC - None

Philadelphia - None


Sporting KC

GOALS: Alan Pulido, Khiry Shelton (3), Gadi Kinda (2), Erik Hurtado, Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi , Johnny Russell, Gerso Fernandes (1)

ASSISTS: Pulido (4), Kinda, Luis Martins (2), Roberto Puncec, Gerso, Johnny Russell, Shelton (1)


GOALS: Brendan Aaronson, Sergio Santos, Alejandro Bedoya, Ilsinho, Jakob Glesnes, Kai Wagner, Kacper Przybylko (1)

ASSISTS: Aaronson (2), Santos, Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro (1)

Starting XI Predictions

Go check that out over here.

Score Predictions

This game will be tough. The Union are the best team Sporting have played in this tournament and SKC will be entering on one day less rest. Combine that with PV’s unwillingness to rotate or sub early (outside of the RSL game) could be a recipe for disaster. If Vermes does a little bit of rotation and is willing to go to the bench early (55-60 minutes in) and be aggressive with subs, Sporting are more than able to beat this team.

However, I’m not sure that happens.

One thing we know for sure, is if Sporting get behind, PV has shown he’ll use all/most of his subs when trailing. But that’s not the way you want to get your bench on the field. I’ll say SKC score early, think things are going well, and give up an equalizer at some point and then when they are completely exhausted but “things are going so well” Philly knocks in the winner and the subs come too late. Prove me wrong Peter!

Then again, Sporting could just finish the numerous chances they are bound to create and I’ll be completely wrong.

2-1 Philadelphia Win

What do you think? Predictions in the comments are welcome. Quarterfinals! Let’s chat about it.

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