Match Preview

Match Preview: Sporting KC plays MLS Cup runners-up Philadelphia Union on Saturday


Sporting Kansas City at Philadelphia Union
2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 6
Saturday, April 1 | 6:30 p.m. CT (6:39 kickoff)
Subaru Park | Chester, Pennsylvania

Broadcast Schedule:
Apple TV | MLS Season Pass
English Radio | ESPN 94.5 FM and 1510 AM
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM

Sporting Kansas City will return to the road for the fourth time in the first six weeks of the 2023 MLS season  to face MLS Cup runners-up Philadelphia Union at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday in Chester, Pennsylvania.

The team's first trip to Subaru Park since 2018 will kick off at 6:39 p.m. CT and will stream live on Apple TV for MLS Season Pass subscribers in both English and Spanish with pre-match programming starting at 6:10 p.m. CT. Saturday's showdown will be shown at each of the club's  pub partners in the Sporting Pub Network  and radio coverage will also air locally in English on ESPN 94.5 FM and 1510 AM, as well as in Spanish on La Grande 1340 AM with streams available in the Sporting KC app.

Despite playing in opposite conferences, Sporting and Philadelphia share a rich and highly competitive history. Both clubs own seven wins and six draws in 20 competitive meetings, including the memorable 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final at Subaru Park in which Sporting prevailed on penalties. The sides last met in the regular season more than four years ago as SKC earned a 2-0 victory at Children's Mercy Park in the club's 2019 MLS home opener.

That match came amidst Sporting's participation in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals, a challenge that now awaits the Philadelphia Union as they host Mexican side Atlas FC on Tuesday in the CCL quarterfinals first leg. The Union qualified for Champions League as the top team in the Eastern Conference in 2022, leading all MLS clubs with the best offense (72 goals scored) and best defense (26 goals conceded) a year ago.

The Union's stellar season garnered several awards with Andre Blake, Jakob Glesnes, Kai Wagner and Daniel Gazdag all named to the MLS Best XI. Jim Curtin was recognized as MLS Coach of the Year, while Blake received Goalkeeper of the Year honors and Glesnes was selected MLS Defender of the Year. Blake (groin) and Wagner (hamstring) are both questionable on the club's player availability report, however Curtin told media this week that all signs pointed to Blake returning to the lineup on Saturday.

Without Blake - who led MLS with 15 shutouts in 2022 -- for the past two matches, Philadelphia suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since 2021 as the Union fell 3-2 in Montreal before dropping a 2-1 decision to Orlando last weekend. The result snapped a 24-game home unbeaten run (19-0-5) in the regular season and a 13-match home winning streak in MLS play.

While Philadelphia has lost three of the team's last four matches, Sporting are winless in five to start the 2023 season and enter Matchday 6 as one of four teams in the Western Conference hoping to kickstart the campaign with a first victory. Manager Peter Vermes will also be in pursuit of the club's first win in Philadelphia since 2013 - when SKC won at Subaru Park on opening day and Decision Day en route to winning MLS Cup - but will have to do so without six players, including five defenders and Designated Player Gadi Kinda.

Ben Sweat will serve a one-match suspension on Saturday following his ejection in the team's 4-1 loss to Seattle, while fellow left backs Tim Leibold and Logan Ndenbe are both sidelined with hamstring injuries. Right back Kayden Pierre (hamstring) and center back Kortne Ford (Achilles) are also ruled out, however Sporting is bolstered by the arrival of 29-year-old Colombian center back Dany Rosero and the return of captain Johnny Russell, striker Alan Pulido and goalkeeper Tim Melia - who were all part of the matchday squad last week for the first time in 2023.

Pulido missed all of 2022 due to knee surgery after recording 15 goals and eight assists in 36 matches across all competitions. The World Cup veteran, who has missed the club’s last 45 regular season matches, is poised to make his return to the field for a Sporting Kansas City attack in need of a spark with just two goals despite leading the league alongside the Philadelphia Union in shots.

Sporting KC winger Daniel Salloi provided the opening goal of the campaign on the road in Dallas two weeks ago and on Saturday will go up against his Hungarian compatriot in Gazdag, who has the most goal contributions in MLS since last July. After a breakout season in 2022 with 22 goals and 10 assists, Gazdag is off to a strong start in 2023 with two penalty goals and an MLS best four assists in his four appearances.

Saturday's match-up will also showcase two of the most consistent contributors in MLS with Sporting KC midfielder Remi Walter chasing the mark set by Glesnes as the current league leader with 78 consecutive regular season starts. Walter's run of 47 straight starts is the fourth longest active streak in Major League Soccer and a start on Saturday would tie Mo Johnston for eighth on the club's all-time chart.