A severely depleted Sporting KC defense meets a TFC side searching for goals.When Sporting Kansas City hosts Toronto FC on Friday night, the main storyline may be about which players aren't there.
Sporting's Matt Besler and Graham Zusi are off at the U.S. national team's pre-World Cup, as is TFC's Michael Bradley. Toronto has also lost Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar to international duty, bringing down a lot of the potential star power from the Eastern Conference clash.
But the international absences are just part of the story, as both sides will be further depleted due to injury or suspensions. The home side will be likely without all of its central defenders, as Besler, Lawrence Olum, Ike Opara, Aurelien Collin and Erik-Palmer Brown are all expected to be unavailable for SKC. Injured Toronto players Bright Dike and Jackson Goncalves will also miss out on the match, and Jonathan Osorio is doubtful as he continues to struggle with hamstring issues.
The absences on both sides will lead to some interesting lineup choices for each respective coach. SKC's Peter Vermes will have to figure out how to cover for the middle of his defensive line, while Ryan Nelsen will continue in his quest to squeeze some offense out of his TFC squad.
One player who will not be missing the match due to international duty is Toronto striker Jermain Defoe, whose absence from England's 23-man World Cup roster benefits Nelsen and his attack-challenged side. Defoe leads Toronto with four goals in five MLS appearances this year, and he'll be looking to exploit a weakened Kansas City back line on Friday.