Saturday, August 25, 2012

Battle at the Top

Thanks to the crazy schedule that MLS has this year, Sporting KC and the New York Red Bulls have not met in a game yet this year.  The two teams will now meet 3 times over the next 9 weeks as both teams close in on the end of their season.  And with only 2 points currently separating the two teams as they sit first and second in the Eastern Conference each one of those 3 games are going to be absolutely huge in the grand scheme of things.  Arguably each one of those 3 games are "must wins" if KC wants to guarantee that that they have home field advantage in the playoffs.

KC did get a bit of good news from the Red Bulls camp earlier this week.  The Red Bulls announced that French striker, Thierry Henry will miss tomorrow's game as he awaits the birth of his son.  With that, KC will only have to deal with a New York attack that include Tim Cahill, Kenny Cooper, Sebastien Le Toux, and Joel Lindpere, no easy task for KC's defense to handle.  New York's problems all season have been in the back where they've struggled at times.  Their goalkeeper who started the season, rookie Ryan Meara, he's been replaced in net by Bill Gaudette, who has been playing well lately not just for club, but for his country as he put on a masterful performance for Puerto Rico in their 2-1 loss to Spain a few weeks ago.

Kansas City has had another full week of training, a rarity for Kansas City up until the last few weeks has allowed KC to get healthier.  Jacob Peterson is still out with his shoulder injury, while Bobby Convey is questionable from his hamstring.  The worrying thing though is that Kei Kamara has joined Convey on the questionable list.  Missing Kamara, KC's leading scorer could be a big loss for KC, he's been one of KC's most consistent players all season, and without him, KC's offense could struggle.  If Kamara can't play, CJ Sapong seems the likely player to take his place in the starting 11. The good news for KC though with the high powered New York attack is that the first choice defense is again available for KC and KC's record when Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers, and Seth Sinovic is 25-2-5 in MLS competitions. 

Myers - Collin - Besler - Sinovic
Cesar - Nagamura 
Zusi - Bunbury - Sapong

Number to Remember - 2 - That's the number of points that KC is ahead of New York.  A win by New York and they jump over KC and into first place.A KC win and they extend that lead to 5 points.  A draw and nothing changes, but could allow Houston to get closer depending on their result against Toronto tonight.

Key Match Up - Paulo Nagamura/Julio Cesar vs Tim Cahill - New York's latest designated player is going to be hard to shut down not just during the run of play by KC's midfield, but he's likely to be matched up with Aurelien Collin on set pieces due to Cahill's heading ability.

PREDICTION - New York is an extremely talented team, even without Henry.  It's going to be a difficult task for KC to shut down the Red Bulls.  They have a lot of fire power that will come at KC from a number of different angles.  While KCs defense is playing well, I don't think they'll be able to get a shutout, the question will be whether KC's offense can come alive more than they did against Toronto last weekend.  If KC doesn't finish the chances NEw York gives them, they'll see New York jump over them.

SKC - 1 (Bunbury)
NY - 1 (Cooper)

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