Kansas City, KS – The Philadelphia Union will head to Sporting Park to take on Sporting Kansas City on Friday in a match that could have major playoff implications.
The Union enter the contest on the outside of the postseason picture, occupying seventh place in the Eastern Conference on 39 points.
Sporting has been in and out of first place in the East over the course of the season, but could go level with Red Bull New York atop the division with maximum points against Philadelphia.
Kansas City extended its winning streak to three games on Saturday by picking up a 2-1 defeat of Toronto FC. C.J. Sapong netted a brace in the affair, giving the former James Madison University striker Sporting's last three goals, all of which have come from headers off of crosses.
"He was very important to how we wanted to play," Sporting head coach Peter Vermes said. "Obviously, two great goals over the course of the game. He was tremendous in that regard, but it's not just that. It's everything on both sides of the ball. He's becoming a handful for players to play against. That's huge."
But while Sporting is trending upward in its playoff push, Philadelphia has plummeted. The Union are winless in their last five league contests, their worst stretch of the season. They have taken just two points during its poor five-game run, and their 1-0 home loss to the Houston Dynamo last time out marked the fourth time in their last five outings at PPL Park in which they have failed to get maximum points.
"It has been a really bad stretch for us and this night is going to be a really difficult to accept," Union head coach John Hackworth said after the loss to Houston. "There is no question that effort of the group was fantastic and their competitiveness showed right from the get-go.
"They put a lot into this game and it is unfortunate that we are sitting here talking about this result but that's sports and as I said it's cruel sometimes."
The Union have gone a club-record 310 minutes since scoring a goal, failing to strike in three consecutive games. Their last goal came Aug. 25 in a 5-1 loss to the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium, the only goal they've managed to score over the current winless run.
A Union victory at Sporting Park would catapult Philadelphia into fifth place, at least until the Revolution, currently in fifth place, host the Dynamo and the sixth-place Chicago Fire host the Montreal Impact on Saturday.