I'd imagine when you're accustomed to regularly playing weekend games a mid-week match can disrupt your typical routine. Similarly, flying cross country, playing a game three time zones away, flying back across the country, and playing another match less than four days later has to really mess with you.
Those are the circumstances the Union face tonight as they host Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park (7:30PM/The Comcast Network). The U, who lost 1-0 to Vancouver on Saturday night, now must regroup as they look to extend their seven game home unbeaten streak.
Further complicating things for the Union, a side which has struggled to find consistent scoring, is that that Carlos Ruiz is back in the fold after representing Guatemala in the Gold Cup. So, now Peter Nowak has five forwards to choose from (Ruiz, Danny Mwanga, Sebastien Le Toux, Jack McInerney, and the newly signed Veljko Paunovic), none of whom appears particularly comfortable playing with any of the others. I have no idea what strike combination Nowak will trot out tonight.
The midfield is another area of the team seemingly in constant flux. Stefani Miglioranzi returned to the lineup on Saturday in Vancouver replacing Michael Farfan. Justin Mapp also returned from a hamstring injury and replaced Keon Daniel.
I am not a huge fan of the Miglioranzi-Brian Carroll central midfield pairing. They are a talented defensive duo, but I think the team sacrifices too much offensively when they play together. Much like deciding on which forwards to go with I have no idea how Nowak fills in his lineup card for the midfielders.
Fortunately, there is no such issue as it relates to his goalkeeper and back four. Week in and week out it must be incredibly comforting to write in the names Mondragon, Harvey, Califf, Valdes, and Williams.
As much as I feel for the Union in terms of the short week it's nothing when compared what Kansas City has faced thus far this season. Tonight will be their 12th road game. They actually played their first ten games of the season on the road as they waited for Livestrong Park to be completed. All things considered it's fairly remarkable that they've gone unbeaten in their last five games (2-0-3).
Offensively SKC is led by Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury. Graham Zusi has been productive of late, scoring two goals and picking up an assist over the last two games. Former Mexican international Omar Bravo has also contributed two goals in just seven appearances.
Defensively KC coach Peter Vermes relies heavily on keeper Jimmy Nielsen and center back Matt Besler.
Tonight is the first in a mini two game homestand. The Union face another quick turnaround when they host Chivas USA on Saturday.
Here’s the lineup I hope we see today: Mondragon, Harvey, Valdes, Califf, Williams, Mapp, Nakazawa, Carroll, Le Toux, McInerney, Mwanga.
Final Score Prediction: The Union bounce back from a bad loss at Vancouver with a clean sheet and a 1-0 win.
The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: I am tiring of the discipline this team has showed. Where are the blatant elbows to the jaw? Where are the clear jersey-grabs on a clear breakaway? Come on already. Someone have a meltdown. Please. Since I am obliged to select someone I'll go with Seba Le Toux, who may gently pat a SKC player on the head a la Thierry Henry and see red.