Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sporting Kansas City closes regular season out tonight

Sporting Kansas City will complete the team's 2012 MLS regular season schedule tonight when they host the Philadelphia Union at 7:30 p.m. CT at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.

The match, sponsored by Garmin, will be shown live locally on KSMO-TV in Kansas City, beginning with coverage at 7 p.m. CT, and will be nationally broadcast on the NBC Sports Network. Spanish listeners can tune in to La Gran D 1340 AM for the station's live radio broadcast.

Sporting Kansas City holds a three-point lead atop the Eastern Conference standings ahead of the regular season finale and has secured home field advantage in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The club can now clinch the conference's top spot and the No. 2 overall seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs with a draw or win against Philadelphia.

After finishing in first place in the East last season, Manager Peter Vermes again has his club in position to repeat as the regular season conference champions in large part thanks to a strong start and finish to the 2012 season.

Sporting Kansas City won seven straight matches, a new club record, to open the campaign and are currently unbeaten since July, a streak of 11 games, entering tonight's match-up.

The Sporting Kansas City defense has allowed a League-low 26 goals through 33 games, while also limiting opponents to the fewest shots and shots on goal in MLS this year.

Goalkeeper and team captain Jimmy Nielsen has played every minute for the club this season and leads MLS with 15 shutouts and 17 victories, one shy of all-time MLS records in both categories.

His 0.79 goals against average is on pace to be the best in club history and would rank him second in MLS history among goalkeepers who played at least 75 percent of their team's matches.

On the opposite end of the field, forward Kei Kamara leads the team with a career-high 11 goals and six assists, while fellow MLS All-Star Graham Zusi has an MLS-best 15 assists to complement his five goals on the year.

Striker C.J. Sapong has improved upon his MLS Rookie of the Year campaign last season with eight goals and one assist in 2012.

The Philadelphia Union, eliminated from postseason contention, will visit LIVESTRONG Sporting Park for the first time in 2012 tonight.

The teams have met twice this season at PPL Park, with the Union earning a 4-0 victory in the MLS regular season on June 23 and Sporting KC recording a 2-0 win in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals on July 11.

Third-year Union striker Jack McInerney leads the club with eight goals and three assists this season, including goals in each of his last four appearances and two goals against Sporting Kansas City in the previous MLS meeting.

Gabriel Gomez has also scored six times in MLS play, while Freddy Adu and Lionard Pajoy have struck for five goals each for Philadelphia.

Manager John Hackworth, who took control of the club in June, could be without regular starters Sheanon Williams, Gabriel Farfan and Danny Cruz due to injury.

Sporting Kansas City continue to cope with the absence of Teal Bunbury (torn ACL), while also awaiting the return of Honduran midfielder Roger Espinoza (ankle sprain).

LIVESTRONG Sporting Park will host a food drive in conjunction with the match and will have collection barrels located at all stadium entrances.

Sporting Kansas City has partnered with the Harvesters Community Food Network and the first 2,000 fans that donate five or more canned goods will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to be one of five winners selected to participate in a post-game meet and greet with Jimmy Nielsen and Kei Kamara.

Additionally, Sporting Kansas City will offer several special promotions for fans in attendance. Eighteen current Season Ticket Members will be randomly selected and matched with a Sporting KC player on the gameday roster to receive their game-worn uniform.

All ticket holders can also take advantage of a sale at Sporting Style for buy one jersey, get one jersey 50 percent off at all merchandise locations inside the stadium.

Prior to the match, Sporting Kansas City will announce the team's annual award winners as voted on by players, coaches and local media.

Ian Nuttall, founder of TheStadiumBusiness Awards, will also be in attendance to formally congratulate LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, Sporting Innovations and Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman on the international recognition received earlier this year in Turin, Italy.

Activities in the Sprint Plaza on Wednesday night will include the EA Sports Mobile tour featuring FIFA 13 and other popular video games, as well as Monster Energy's BMX stunt show.

Following the match, the Members' Club and Shield Club at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park will be open to all ticket holders for food, drink and entertainment.

Sporting Kansas City supporters can follow tonight's game online via @SKCGameday on Twitter and the MatchCenter, or on mobile devices with Sporting Explore and MLS MatchDay apps.