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Hell in the Heartland: Philly up against it tonight vs. SKC

DC United v Philadelphia Union

CHESTER, PA - JUNE 16: Interim head coach John Hackworth of the Philadelphia Union stands on the sideline during a game against DC United at PPL Park on June 16, 2012 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The United won 1-0. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

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I know Kansas City lost some mojo through May. So some of the sheen may have been rubbed away from Peter Vermes’ team.

But not much. Because if I had to guess, to ask around MLS about which teams you do not want to face, Sporting Kansas City and its relentless Hell in the Heartland approach would remain high on the list. (I may just trademark that, “Hell in the Heartland,” a la the old 40 Minutes of Hell high pressure basketball style.)

So good luck with all that, Philadelphia.

John Hackworth’s assignment in his second official game in charge of the Philadelphia Union couldn’t be much tougher. Trying to pull points tonight out of a contest against SKC will be no easier for the absence of his best fullback, Sheanon Williams, who is doubtful with a sprained big toe.

Complicating things for each club is a hectic schedule; both play in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday. Philly plays at home Tuesday against the Harrisburg City Islanders, while Sporting KC remains in familiar territory to meet the Dayton Dutch Lions.

Philadelphia is a little more rested, having missed the mid-week appointment that a dozen MLS clubs, including Kansas City, had to deal with. Either way, lineup choices will be critical for both clubs. Sporting Kansas City held back four starters Wednesday at Seattle, still managing a worthwhile 1-1 draw.

In all honesty, would anybody blame Hackworth if he rested a starter or two or three, holding them back for Tuesday’s Open Cup match? Because what happens if they expend a lot of energy tonight, lose anyway, and then go crashing wearily out of the Open Cup three nights later against a lower tier side? I’m guessing some folks wouldn’t be too happy about that.