Union to continue playoff push in K.C.

Union interim manager Jim Curtin greets Conor Casey during their 3-1 win over New York.
Union interim manager Jim Curtin greets Conor Casey during their 3-1 win over New York. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 02, 2014

Amid the starting of a new era in goal with the signing of two-time Algerian World Cup keeper Rais Mbolhi, the Union resume their push for the playoffs Friday with a crucial Major League Soccer match at Sporting Kansas City.

Mbolhi, who signed Wednesday, won't make the trip. Interim manager Jim Curtin said Zac MacMath would be the starter.

Once considered well out of the postseason running, the Union (5-8-8, 23 points) are just three points out of the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. They have 13 matches left.

Sporting Kansas City (11-5-5, 38 points) leads the Eastern Conference and is the defending MLS champion. But the Union have proven they can win at Sporting Park, which is a difficult venue for visiting teams.

On May 14, the Union won there, 2-1. Last year, while still in the playoff hunt, the Union kept their hopes alive by winning, 1-0, in Kansas City on Sept. 27.

"That is one of the toughest places to play," Curtin said. "We have grinded out a couple of results there and dodged a lot of bullets."

Curtin said the Union were relatively healthy, although midfielder Cristian Maidana, who has a team-high eight assists, remained bothered by a hamstring injury.

"He is a possibility, but he is not 100 percent," Curtin said.

Recently the offense has clicked, but the defense has not had the same consistency.

The Union are 2-1-2 since Curtin took over for John Hackworth and have outscored teams by 11-8 in MLS games during that span.

The combination of Sebastien Le Toux and Conor Casey has combined for 14 goals, with Le Toux having a team-high eight.

Overall this season the Union are tied for first in the Eastern Conference with 33 goals, but they also have allowed the third most in the 10-team conference, 35.

The Union have not played a game in MLS since a 1-1 draw at Chicago on July 19. Their most recent outing was a 1-0 loss Friday to visiting Crystal Palace of the English Premier League in a friendly.

The Union will face a shorthanded K.C. defense. U.S. national team member Matt Besler won't play because he received a red card in Saturday's 2-1 win at Toronto. Keeper Eric Kronberg is out with a fractured left hand.

On a local note, Kansas City manager Peter Vermes, of Delran High and Rutgers University, will be among three people inducted into the team's Hall of Honor at halftime.

Union at Sporting Kansas City

What: Major League Soccer, Union (5-8-8, 23 points) at Sporting Kansas City (11-5-5, 38 points).

When/where: Friday, 8 p.m.; Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan.

TV: NBC Sports Network.

Union on the road: 3-6-3; K.C. at home: 4-1-5.

Goals for: Union, 33; K.C., 31  

Goals against: Union, 35; K.C., 19.

Last MLS game: The Union played the host Chicago Fire to a 1-1 draw July 19; K.C. earned a 2-1 win on Saturday at Toronto.   - Marc Narducci



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