The homestretch of the MLS season starts today, with Kansas City traveling to Canada to take on a team 23 points behind them in the standings, Toronto FC.
This is a classic matchup of two teams at very different ends of the spectrum: Kansas City sits atop first place in the Eastern Conference and chasing the Supporter's Shield while Toronto is mired in the MLS cellar trying to avoid the first-pick in the 2013 SuperDraft.
Kickoff is early, 3:30 p.m. on KSMO-TV. Don't forget that.
In lieu of an expanded preview, make sure you check out my story
about Sporting KC's chase for a historic season
. This post will focus only on the basics. And music.
What to Know
Eric Hassli (formerly of the Vancouver Whitecaps) is now the lead striker for TFC. On Wednesday, he made his home debut and bagged his first goal in red in Toronto's 2-2 draw with Portland. He's a constant danger and his earlier match-up with fellow countryman Aurelien Collin featured everything you'd expect (preening bald Frenchmen, chippy play, physical challenges, French insults, lots of odd tattoos).
This past week has been the first time that Peter Vermes has been able to give the bulk of his squad a proper week of training -- it's Kansas City's first week without a mid-week game since the second week of June.
Referee Jorge Gonzalez will be the man in the middle of this match. He's an MLS vet with 84 appearances.
Sporting Kansas City, oddly enough, has just one win and one goal scored at BMO Field. That win and goal came in KC's first visit in 2007. The last two visits have been 0-0 draws.
KC's injury report is getting a little bit better, but it's still a problem. Cyprian Hedrick (fibula fracture) and Jacob Peterson (shoulder sprain) are listed as "out." The rest are doubtful: Jon Kempin (ankle fracture), Bobby Convey (hamstring strain) and Neven Markovic (groin strain).
So, Lawrence Olum, Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic are in the clear injury-wise.
Vermes will have his three "international" players -- Graham Zusi and Matt Besler spent the week with the United States and Roger Espinoza with the Honduras national teams -- back for this match. Espinoza did not play for Honduras with a shoulder injury.
With a week to train -- and heal -- I expect Vermes to throw out his strongest-possible lineup.
GK: Jimmy Nielsen-c; DEF: Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; MID: Julio Cesar, Paulo Nagamura, Roger Espinoza; FWD: Graham Zusi, Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara
BENCH: Eric Kronberg; Michael Harrington, Lawrence Olum; Michael Thomas, Oriol Rosell; C.J. Sapong, Soony Saad
The only catch would be if Vermes decides to let Espinoza rest and starts Sapong out wide with Zusi up top.
KC's really been quite good on the road; Toronto have been less than good everywhere. I'm feelinlg
Sporting KC 3, Toronto FC 1
. Yup, a high-scoring affair that's atypical of KC's previous visits to Toronto. I'll say goals from Kamara, Bunbury (aces on the road!) and Collin get the goals for KC. Of course, I'll take Hassli for TFC.
MatchDay Hype Song
Sometimes I put a lot of thought into picking a song, only to find out I can't find a version of said song to share in a blog format. That's the case today. The song should be The Future of the Left's "Notes on Achieving Orbit" -- which is a fabulously fantastic bit of witty musical satire that includes a line that guarantees my attention, "Where were you when Russell Brand invented fire?" But it's no longer on YouTube. (I'll tweet out the song on Twitter though.)
In lieu of that, I'll just pick a song that always works for any "hype-up" situation. It's Bad Brains' "Sailin On." Who doesn't love a little Bad Brains?