Sporting Kansas City-Toronto FC Preview
Sporting Kansas City and Toronto FC finished with vastly different results in openers that showcased some major changes for both.
Toronto will look to end a seven-game winless streak against Kansas City in Saturday's home opener that has been moved to Rogers Centre.
Sporting Kansas City (1-0-0) is without two stars from last season, with Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara currently in the English Premier League. The club got off to a slow start without those players last Saturday before Graham Zusi had a goal and two assists to help Sporting rally for a 3-1 victory at Philadelphia.
Claudio Bieler scored in his MLS debut while Oriol Rosell, a former youth product with Barcelona, had the other goal.
"I think this group is hungry for success, hungry for winning something," coach Peter Vermes said. "That part of it is good, it's just making sure we get in the right frame of mind and the right rhythm for that."
Toronto FC marked Ryan Nelsen's debut as coach with a 1-0 defeat at Vancouver that same day. He gave Hogan Ephraim, Kyle Bekker and Robert Earnshaw their MLS debuts.
The Zambian-born Earnshaw had his paperwork finalized just in time to play 84 minutes.
"It's a new team," Earnshaw said. "You've got to think of all the different pieces that we've put together, everybody getting used to each other and to be thrown in straightaway in the one game it was always going to be difficult."
Kansas City has five wins and two draws in the last seven meetings with TFC - all since Vermes took over during the 2009 season. Sporting has posted shutouts of Toronto in its last three visits, and there has never been a matchup in Canada in which both teams have scored.
The clubs have totaled five goals in seven meetings in Toronto, which anticipates a bigger crowd after moving this contest from the club's regular home - BMO Field.
Nelsen was brought in to shore up a defense that allowed a league-high 62 goals last season, but he has not revealed how he will approach this contest.
"They're at home and they have to play there, right?" Vermes said. "You can't just sit back there and not play at all."
Vermes is concerned about the playmaking ability of Bekker, the third overall pick in this year's draft.
"I think he's turn into going to be a very good player in our league, he's someone you have to keep an eye on," Vermes said.
Bekker, a 22-year-old midfielder, seemingly still has plenty to prove to his new coach.
"What we have to think about Kyle is that sometimes he can do the stuff that makes the fans look and clap and say, 'well done, well played' but we want to use his tricks to really affect the game in terms of goals and assists," Nelsen said.
Toronto is unsure of the statuses of two injured midfielders - Luis Silva and former Kansas City player Julio Cesar. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei could make his season debut after missing the opener with a broken nose.