Thursday, October 17, 2013

Playoffs Clinched, Time for the Next Step

Sporting KC clinched a playoff spot last weekend without even taking the field. Tomorrow night at Sporting Park, they can clinch a top three spot with a draw and a top two spot with a win. KC welcomes the "Wooden Spoon" winner (worst record in the league), DC United tomorrow night. While United won this year's US Open Cup they've been struggling in league play.

United is on pace to set a number of league records this year. If they don't get a win in KC they'll tie a league record for fewest wins on the road (0) and they'll be guaranteed to at best tie a league record for fewest wins (4). If they're shutout, they'll stay on pace to tie their old record for fewest goals in a season (21). As the records above are showing, it's not been a good season for DC. Their leading scorers in league play both have three goals. KC has eight players that currently have at least three goals. Two of those players that have three are defenders.

Sporting KC cannot be complacent though at home. In their past two home games, both against lesser competition KC has picked up a draw (vs Real Esteli) and a loss (vs Philadelphia). A team like DC is going to be dangerous for KC cause they'll come in with nothing to play for. Sporting will play without Aurelien Collin tomorrow. Collin is suspended again tomorrow due to yellow card accumulation. Peter Vermes though had worked out a deal with Jurgen Klinsmann that allowed Matt Besler to return to KC after the qualifier in Kansas City. So tomorrow Sporting will have Besler and Ike Opara partner in the center of defense. Graham Zusi has also returned, but it's not known if he will start or not. Another question is whether Claudio Bieler will return back to the starting lineup after making way for Dom Dwyer the past few weeks.

Myers - Opara - Besler - Sinovic
Rosell - Joseph
Saad - Dwyer - Sapong

Number to Remember - 1 - The number of points KC needs to clinch a top 3 spot in the East. It's also the number of goals that Bieler has scored since mid-July. That one goal came from the penalty spot. Heading into the playoffs, Sporting needs Bieler to find form and start scoring again.

Key Match Up - KC forwards vs DC Defense - Someone on the front line of Sporting KC needs to start finding form. While Bieler is certainly a big key to hit form. At this point KC needs one of their forwards to starting finding the net regularly. CJ Sapong had scored three goals in two games, but has been kept off the board the last three. Bieler and Soony Saad haven't scored since Columbus, and Dwyer has the one league goal. KC needs to start finding the net.

PREDICTION -Now is the time in the season where you have to get everything lined up for the playoffs. You limit your lineup shuffling and you put your best team on the field. Facing a team at the bottom of the table at home this a game that Sporting KC absolutely must win. And really there's no reason that KC shouldn't win this one going away. Last time KC played DC at home it took a late Bieler goal to win 1-0. So it's certainly not a guarantee, but a team in KC's position should be able to win this without a huge problem.

SKC - 2 (Saad, Dwyer)
DC - 0


hartley said...

I like your words here, but not your lineup. If PV were to put PJ and Benny on the field at the same time, then this is a loss. They do not play well together. One or the other, but not both together. So, here's hoping Nagamura can come back or that PV puts out Olum with Rosell.

Nathan Martin said...

Nagamura is still hurt. With the time remaining, at best it looks like he's a sub off the bench.

So it's a Zusi, Feilhaber, Rosell midfield for the playoffs. It should keep the outside backs more at home which isn't bad.

It's time for the frontline starters to gel together: tonight's starters, whoever they are, ought to be his starters if this were MLS Cup. (Saad, Bieler, Sapong are my top choice team.)

As a note, in 8 of 10 games that Kei played 90 SKC scored multiple goals for 1.9 goals and allowed 1.3 goals. With Kei playing less than a half or not at all, SKC have had 7 multi-goal games in 22 matches for 1.14 goals and 0.72 goals allowed.

Fans need to recalibrate expectations a bit. Shutouts are what are most important for this current team, not shootouts.