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Sporting KC wraps up the East crown – but at a cost

Toronto FC v Sporting Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, KS - SEPTEMBER 1: Aaron Maund #21 of the Toronto FC attempts to wrap up Paulo Nagamura #6 of the Sporting KC as he attempts to control a loose ball early in the first half at Livestrong Sporting Park on September 1, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

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Now one around Sporting Kansas City could deny that Roger Espinoza’s ankle injury would dent the team’s playoff chances – contingent on how fast the club’s engine room in the center of the park could get back on the went down with an ankle injury.

The one saving grace was Paulo Nagamura; while he’s not quite the energetic, non-stop presence that Espinoza supplies, the Brazilian central midfielder does help fill the void in sharp edge and bite.

So Nagamura’s first-half removal due to his own ankle injury is certainly concerning.

Sporting Kansas City did manage to close out the regular season successfully without either of them, finishing with a 2-1 win Wednesday at Philadelphia in the only league match. With the win, Sporting KC wrapped up the Eastern Conference crown, providing the best odds of hosting MLS Cup should they find their way into the league’s 17th championship match.

Only San Jose will finish with more points. So, a title contest between Kansas City and San Jose would be played out West in the Bay area.

But if Kansas City makes it through the East, any other match-up would be at Livestrong Sporting Park.

Of course, we may be getting ahead of ourselves.

They have about 10 days now to get Espinoza, Nagamura or both healthy. Otherwise, that Sporting Kansas City midfield won’t be exactly “unrecognizable,” but it sure won’t look much like the one that helped guide Peter Vermes’ team through the East so successfully this year.