Under this year's MLS playoff format, the top three teams in each conference get automatic playoff berths, while the next four teams in the overall standings get wild-card playoff spots. As this handy-dandy chart makes clear, D.C. United currently sit one point outside the wild-card cutoff, while tonight's opponent, Sporting Kansas City, would be the next-to-last team in the playoff mix. The importance of tonight's match, therefore, should be obvious.
D.C. United (7-6-10) at Sporting Kansas City (8-7-9)
When: 8:30 p.m., Sunday, August 21
Where: LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, Kansas City, Mo.
TV: Comcast SportsNet will have tape-delayed coverage beginning at 9:30 p.m. We covered the reasons for this a few days ago. We know it's not ideal, but we're also sure that there are certain places on the internet where you can find this one live.
Team News And Tactics
D.C. United: Steve Cronin seems to be the obvious choice to start in net after Bill Hamid left Thursday's 1-1 draw against Chicago at halftime with a hamstring strain. Joe Willis (back spasms) flew out to Kansas City to provide cover at the goalkeeping position for United, but an airplane flight and a start in a crucial match like this is a lot to ask of a young goalie with a bad back. Don't be surprised if Santino Quaranta and Josh Wolff get starts in place of Stephen King and Charlie Davies, who were both underwhelming on Thursday night.
Sporting Kansas City: Omar Bravo will return from suspension tonight for Sporting Kansas City, which means that one of CJ Sapong or Teal Bunbury will likely drop to the bench. Kei Kamara is expected to be the third forward threat for the home side. If Birahim Diop has suitably recovered from a groin strain, he'll take the place of Milos Stojcev in midfield and play alongside Roger Espinoza and Graham Zusi, who scored two goals in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Portland.
Key to the Game
Keep Possession: Sporting Kansas City play a fast, up-tempo game with midfielders whose first instinct is to attack. United need to keep possession of the ball as much as possible in order to prevent Kansas City from getting off to a quick start.