MLS Preview from The Sports Network (ET)
05/22/2014 4:17 PM
05/22/2014 4:26 PM
Toronto (4-4-0) at Kansas City (5-4-2), 8:30 p.m.
Kansas City, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of Eastern Conference heavyweights will meet at Sporting Park on Friday as Sporting Kansas City hosts Toronto FC.
Both clubs harbor big aspirations for this season as Sporting is looking to retain its MLS Cup title while Toronto, following a big splash into the transfer market, will hope to make a first-ever playoff appearance.
It's still early, but neither side appears to be on track to achieve its target for the season.
Kansas City was in good form, but a run of two successive defeats has dropped the club to third place in the East table.
After suffering a disappointing home defeat to the Philadelphia Union last Wednesday, Sporting suffered a 2-1 loss at the Chicago Fire on Sunday.
Kansas City is missing key players Graham Zusi and Matt Besler to the United States national team's World Cup preparations, but goalkeeper Eric Kronberg believes his side must make the necessary adjustments and take things as they come.
"One day at a time, one game at a time," Kronberg said of rebounding from successive defeats. "We are going to learn from our mistakes for sure and we have to kind of forget about it too. Go back to work tomorrow and try and fix our mistakes, and figure some stuff out, especially in the back, and go from there."
Toronto entered the season with massive expectations after splashing in the offseason to acquire Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, but the Canadian club has managed only a .500 record through its first eight games of the season.
The Reds have been slightly disjointed thus far. Scheduling - they have played the fewest number of league games of any team in MLS - has not helped matters, and having Bradley in and out of the lineup, due to injury or national team duty, has made life difficult on head coach Ryan Nelsen.
But the strong play of Defoe has helped gloss over any of Toronto's recent shortcomings.
Defoe helped the Reds snap a three-game slide by grabbing the winner in the club's 2-0 defeat of Red Bull New York last weekend, his fourth goal in five league games. The Englishman, who was omitted from England's World Cup roster, stressed that getting Toronto three points was most important.
"It's only normal when you get a disappointment to try to prove people wrong, and just to remind people, at the end of the day, this is what I'm doing," he said. "I think I did that today.
"I think that's a job well done. Even if I didn't score and we got the three points, that's the most important thing."
Toronto, already without Bradley and goalkeeper Julio Cesar, may be without the services of two key players on Friday as Jonathan Osorio (hamstring) and Jackson (concussion) are questionable for the crucial Eastern Conference clash.
"My hamstring, unfortunately, is starting to hurt again," said Osorio, who has been bothered by various knocks throughout the season. "It's not the same injury as last time though, it's a different part. Hopefully I'll be good, I'll get a scan today and hopefully it won't be bad news."
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