Union-Sporting Kansas City Preview
It has been over a month since the Philadelphia Union last celebrated a goal, and if it doesn't happen Friday night at Sporting Kansas City, the likelihood of them celebrating any in the postseason will become even slimmer.
The 310-minute span is the longest scoreless streak in franchise history, and it has been coupled with a season-high, five-match winless streak.
"We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and get back to work," defender Amobi Okugo said. "We have five games remaining and anything can happen. I think we need at least three wins to even have a remote chance."
The Union (10-10-9) last scored in the 50th minute of an Aug. 25 match at New England, and the Revolution quickly made them forget about it with four second-half goals in a 5-1 embarrassment.
They have been off since a 1-0 loss to Houston on Sept. 14. The defeat allowed the Dynamo to jump them in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, which the Union enter Friday's match one point removed from.
"Everything is still possible, but we need a big reaction in the final five games of the regular season to make the playoffs," forward Sebastien Le Toux wrote in a blog post on the team's official website.
Meanwhile, the optimism in Kansas City (14-9-6) doesn't have to be reiterated, having won its last three matches to tie a season-best winning streak. It has also won three straight at home, conceding one goal in that time.
Its MLS-best goal differential of plus-15 has it in position to tie the league high for victories while pulling even with New York for the lead in the East.
"Obviously we want to get into the playoffs and the best positions we can to give ourselves home-field advantage," coach Peter Vermes told the team's official website. "That's really what we are fighting for at the moment."
The statuses of forward Claudio Bieler and midfielder Oriol Rosell are uncertain for Friday's match after both missed Kansas City's 2-1 win over Toronto FC on Saturday.
Forward C.J. Sapong has started consecutive matches for the first time since April and scored three goals. He scored both of the team's goals against Toronto to fill in nicely for leading scorer Bieler.
The team is 16-0-2 in when Sapong scores.
"I knew I had the ability," Sapong told the league's official website. "It was just that sometimes you get in situations where you're kind of tested, and your mindset might go astray. You've just got to deal with the punches as they come."
Kansas City's Jimmy Nielsen is tied for the league lead with 10 shutouts, and his 0.97 goals-against average is the league's best.
Friday's match is the second of three between these clubs. Kansas City won the 2013 opener 3-1 on March 2 in Philadelphia, and it will visit the Union again for the teams' season finale Oct. 26.