The Full 90

Sporting KC vs. D.C. United: Back to League play

Since Wednesday night, about 10,000 words have been posted about the U.S. Open Cup victory for Sporting Kansas City. All of them worthy and justified.

But there's still this pesky problem of 11 games remaining in the MLS season and there are, legitimately, two more trophies out there for KC to compete for: The Supporter's Shield (for the best regular season team) and the MLS Cup. (Don’t even think of whispering the word that starts with "T" and rhymes with "rebel." At least, not yet. Way too early.)

Oh, who am I kidding? One more lap on the blogger/fan/player victory tour, because it's always fun

to watch a team celebrate in the locker room with champagne

.

But Sporting Kansas City does need to get back to business though, as they’ll host D.C. United in a classic

six-pointer

tonight. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Livestrong Sporting Park.

The referee is Edvin Jurisevic. He's done a lot of KC games the last three years;

lots of hair product though

.

Three Questions

1. How will the "new" tiebreaker rules change things down the stretch?

I sorta missed this the other day, but the MLS released new rules for playoff tiebreakers. Yeah, they released "new" rules in the middle of the season. I know, that seems, um, like a weird idea to say the least. (Technically, these aren’t "new" -- which is why I’m using quote marks -- but are only just being revealed. I’m not really sure what the hold-up was, but it’s really odd to announce changes to the league structure

during the middle of the season

. Especially when the new changes seem to favor teams like Los Angeles and New York.)

In the event of a tie in the final standings -- since head-to-head is hard to determine with an unbalanced schedule -- the following will decide a tie (in order from first to last):

• 1. Most total goals scored















• 8. Coin toss (for 2 teams) or drawing of lots (3 or more teams)

The changes put an emphasis on scoring -- which isn’t a bad thing. But it does put Kansas City in a bit of a hole.

Of the 10 teams in the main hunt for the Supporter’s Shield, only Chicago (25) has fewer goals than Kansas City (28). San Jose has an almost comical +17 goal differential; Sporting is tied with Real Salt Lake for fourth with +7. I’m not sure what "disciplinary points" means completely.

If it came to #4 and #5, Kansas City regains advantage -- they are third in the league with road goals (16) and are the only Eastern Conference team with a positive road gaol differential (+2).

If it comes to #6 and #7, KC could be hosed -- only Chivas (6) and Toronto (11) have fewer home goals than KC (12), and a paltry +5 home goal differential is below the middle of the pack.

If only "total shots" was a tiebreaker. Kansas City would own all of wins.

2. Can Sporting score at home?

Since June 16, Kansas City have scored four goals at home against MLS competition. Two of those came against Toronto on June 16th and another was Kei Kamara’s penalty kick on Wednesday.

In all competitions, Kansas City bagged three against lower-division Dayton Dutch Lions in the Open Cup and Kyle Miller scored a ridiculous accidental header to level the Stoke City friendly.

The only run-of-play goal between June 16th and Wednesday against an MLS team was against Columbus. Which was a loss.

If Sporting wants to make a playoff push, it needs Livestrong to be a bunker and a massive advantage to keep those hopes alive.

3. Will we see the same midfield as Wednesday?

I think fatigue will play a big factor in Kansas City’s lineup, but I for one would like to see a midfield trio of Julio Cesar, Paulo Nagamura and Roger Espinoza in the future.

They covered so much ground and essentially choked the life out of Seattle’s midfield. I would like to see that lineup in difficult fixtures ahead against possession-heavy teams with decent midfields -- like, New York on Aug. 26.

I hate what it does to Graham Zusi (stuck out wide without a lot of potential to influence the attack), but that’s a problem that I think Peter Vermes can work out with some training time.

D.C.'s Dangerman

Even though Chris Pontius is really finding his form for D.C. United, the biggest danger is, always, midfielder Dwayne De Rosario. He's been injured (and missed last week's game with Columbus), but if he's in the middle, United’s always dangerous.

Injuries/Suspensions/Warnings

Kansas City will be without Cyprian Hedrick (fibula fracture), Jon Kempin (ankle fracture) and Jacob Peterson (shoulder sprain) for sure. There are lots of questionable however: Bobby Convey (hamstring strain), Peterson Joseph (hamstring strain), Lawrence Olum (groin strain) and Seth Sinovic (ankle sprain). C.J. Sapong is nursing a hip flexor strain, but he’s expected to participate.

D.C. United will be without defenders Robbie Russell (plantar fasciitis), Daniel Woolard (concussion-like symptoms), Maicon Santos (toe soreness) and Hamdi Salihi (viral infection). Star-man De Rosario is doubtful with shoulder soreness.

There aren't any players in immediate danger of a yellow-card suspension, however there are SEVEN players who will be suspended after their next two yellows: Julio Cesar, Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers, Jimmy Nielsen, Paulo Nagamura, Lawrence Olum and Matt Besler.

Starting XI

Injuries and fatigue might play a big factor in Vermes' strategy for this game. Knowing that Vermes likes to ride the hot hand, I'd have to think he'll go with a pretty full-strength squad. (The team also has its first full week without two games coming up.) Here's my predicted XI.

GK: Jimmy Nielsen-c; DEF: Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Michael Harrington; MID: Julio Cesar, Paulo Nagamura, Graham Zusi; FWD: Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, C.J. Sapong

BENCH: Eric Kronberg; Lawrence Olum, Neven Markovic; Roger Espinoza, Michael Thomas, Korede Aiyegbusi; Soony Saad.

The big question mark is the health of the two fullbacks. If Myers and Sinovic are 100%, obviously that changes the lineup a lot. Harrington would move to the right and Markovic would likely come in at the left.

Prediction

This isn't going to be an easy game. The emotions and fatigue of the mid-week game will probably take their toll. Not to mention: D.C. is kinda good. I think the two teams will split the points with a 1-1 draw. Goals by Kamara and Chris Pontius.

MatchDay Hype Song

Do you know how many really good bands are in Kansas City right now? It's more than a handful. A lot of them (Hearts of Darkness, Steady States, Radkey, Schwervon and Empty Spaces to name five) are really quite worth your time. But last weekend, I think I saw my favorite KC band for the first time: Cherokee Rock Rifle. It's no-frills hard driving rock with some sweet tambourine thrown in.

My favorite track by them is

"The Countess (And The Midnight Hour).
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