Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Rivals" In Town

Since the beginning of last season, Sporting KC has made an increased effort in trying to create a rivalry with the Chicago Fire.  While two of KC's biggest wins in franchise history have come at the expense of the Fire, Chicago has never looked at KC as much more than an annoying little brother.  Last year, Robb Heineman and Sporting tried to change that.  First was the traveling 300 to Chicago for the second game of the season last year.  Then came the donating money for each goal scored against them, and the deal with Firehouse Subs for when the Fire lost.  For many Fire fans that seemed to do little more than make KC look like someone craving attention.  A rivalry develops with the fans and really, until last year, KC drew flies in comparison to the Fire.  And while the growth in the last few years has turned heads in that department, it's maintaining that level that is one key.  The other key for Sporting to really start to develop a rivalry is easy, WIN.  The Fire hold a 23-10-9 record in league play against KC.  It took until 2005 for KC to win a game in Chicago.  Lately though it's been KC's home form that has doomed them against the Fire, as they have not won at home against their "rival" since 2007 when the team still played on the Missouri side of the state line.  Rivalries are built on classic match ups, and really KC and the Fire haven't had many of those.  Tony Meola is a hero in KC for standing on his head during MLS Cup 2000, but probably isn't in the top 10 of the most hated Fire opponents.  Start beating the Fire more regularly, maintain being a consistent top of the East team, maybe knock them out of the playoffs a few times, and KC will start to get more and more attention from the Fire.

The Fire come into Livestrong Sporting Park having won their last 4 league games, beating Houston, Montreal, Toronto, and Columbus.  They've also won 7 of their last 8 dating back to the beginning of August, in all 8 of those games, the Fire have at least scored two goals.  In the same stretch of times, KC has only scored 2 or more goals 3 times.  Chris Rolfe is helping to lead the way for the Fire scoring 2 goals in their last game, a 3-1 win over Columbus.  In the past two months they've climbed up the Eastern Conference and now find themselves trailing KC by only 2 points and they have a game in hand on KC.

KC has their own decent run of form lately, having been unbeaten in their last 8 games, although they've picked up fewer points than in their 7 game unbeaten run from earlier this season.  While Chicago's picked up wins, KC has been having to settle for draws.  While Chicago has scored at least 2 goals in every game since the beginning of August, KC hasn't allowed more than 1 goal by the opposition in that same stretch of time.  Something will have to give when the two teams take the field tomorrow.  Sporting will welcome back 2 players who did not play against Montreal last weekend.  Roger Espinoza returns from his yellow card accumulation suspension, while Aurelien Collin returns after being rested on the weekend.  Sporting will be without Jacob Peterson who picked up a red card after being subbed out against Montreal.  His absence will likely push Graham Zusi back up to the forward position.

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

Number to Remember - 0 - That's the number of wins KC has against the Fire in the state of Kansas.  In 3 years at CAB and 2 years at LSP KC has yet to defeat the Fire, combine that with one loss at BVDAC in the Open Cup, and KC is 0-3-4 in the Sunflower State against Chicago.

Key Match Up - Matt Besler vs Chris Rolfe - Rolfe is in form at the moment and has been a handful for teams to deal with since coming back into the league.  Rolfe also hasn't made many friends in KC after he crawled back on the field in the team's last meeting to try and get the referee to stop play when he was injured.  Besler seems the most likely candidate to match up with the Fire goal scorer.

PREDICTION - This is a must win for Sporting.  If they want to finish at the top of the East, they can't drop any of the remaining 6 points at home, especially against the team that is only 2 points back.  A loss and the Fire jump over KC while still having a game in hand.  A draw and the Fire are a win away from jumping over KC, again with that game in hand.  A win has to happen tomorrow.  Anything else is 100% unacceptable.  Can they take care of business? Absolutely, the Fire haven't shut a team out since they beat Vancouver at home back in the middle of July, their last road shut out, in Houston on July 3rd.  So KC is going to get their chances, especially at home where they have been doing it all season.  As long as the defense avoids the lapses that led to the Fire's goal the last time these two teams played KC can cool off the Fire.

SKC -2 (Kamara, Zusi)
CHI - 1 (Rolfe)


Nathan Martin said...

Somehow missed the Peterson red card until reading the recap article.

Would've been nice for him to reincorporate with the starters in an important home game.

Somewhat like last year, the rotation seems less sure going into the playoffs than I would like.

Nathan Martin said...

Ruminating over what I did believe and still believe was a mistake to start CJ out left against Houston in the conference finals as opposed to Bravo.

Bravo started the last 10 regular season games where the team went 5-2-3.

The lack of cohesion and rhythm is disconcerting with only 3 games left after this.

The biggest problem with Peterson missing this game is that the 3 d-mid formation is a entirely different formation than his preferred look.

I'd rather he played Zusi in the middle and replaced Peterson out left.

(Pregame jitters on my part is all, I suppose.)