MLS

Philadelphia Union v Sporting Kansas City: Preview and prediction

By Sports Desk March 31, 2023

Jim Curtin has promised supporters they will see the Philadelphia Union of old in Saturday's showdown with Sporting Kansas City at Subaru Park.

The Union finished top of the Eastern Conference last season en route to losing the MLS Cup final to Los Angeles FC, but they have made a sluggish start to the 2023 campaign.

Philly have lost three of their opening five matches, including back-to-back defeats against a struggling CF Montreal side and Orlando City in their past two outings.

But with winless Sporting up next this weekend, Curtin is hoping to see a response from his players.

"I think the group will have a good response against Kansas City," Curtin said ahead of Union's first home match against Sporting since the MLS is Back quarter-finals in 2020.

"Win, lose or draw we want to put on a good display to our fans and show that we are still a very good team that had a bad outing last game.

"We have players returning and have had a couple of days with them, so we should be pretty much full strength going into the Kansas match."

Sporting have themselves made a slower-than-expected start to the season, having taken just two points from their first five games.

Like Philadelphia, they enter the game on the back of successive defeats, but experienced head coach Peter Vermes knows how quickly things can change.

"It's easy to think negative things, saying what players can't do, but it's amazing how fast a team can turn that, then you ask 'well how did they do that?'," he said.

"A lot of it is to do with plugging away, keep fighting. I've said it before: we've got a good group here and we'll get there."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Philadelphia Union – Andre Blake

Philadelphia's defeats to Montreal and Orlando came in the absence of Blake, whom Curtin this week described as "the best goalkeeper that our league has".

 

Joe Bendik conceded five goals across those two matches, but Curtin is hopeful Blake will be back between the sticks on Saturday.

Sporting Kansas City – Erik Thommy

Two goals scored in five games is a hugely underwhelming return for Sporting, even more so when you consider they have had 76 shots this term – only Philadelphia have had as many.

Thommy has been heavily involved in an attacking sense, but he has yet to score this campaign and that quite simply has to change if Sporting are to turn things around.

 

MATCH PREDICTION – PHILADELPHIA WIN

Philadelphia have clearly lacked the consistency of last season so far in 2023, having lost two MLS games in a row for the first time since September 2021.

The defeat to Orlando last weekend brought an end to the Union's 13-match winning streak on home soil, which was the second-longest run of any side in league history.

But Sporting have really struggled so far, with this only the second time they have gone winless in their first five games, and this seems a good chance for Philly to kick-start their season.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Philadelphia Union - 62.1 per cent

Sporting KC - 14.8 per cent

Draw - 23.1 per cent

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