Friday, November 01, 2013

Playoff Time

Sporting KC kick off their run to MLS Cup tomorrow as they make a trip out to New England to take on the Revolution. It's the first time these two teams have met in the playoffs, and only the third time the two teams will meet outside MLS league play. That's the third fewest of any of the remaining MLS original teams (DC once and New York zero are the ones with fewer). Sporting KC won the season series against the Revs, first drawing 0-0 in New England before winning 3-0 in KC in Kei Kamara's last start for the club.

The Revolution got themselves into the playoffs going 4-0-2 in their last six games. The down side of that is only one of those four wins was against a playoff team (1-0 over the wilting Impact). They did draw New York 2-2 in that stretch. Revolution leading scorer, Diego Fagundez didn't appear much against KC during the season, but you can expect him to play a bigger role in the playoff match up. One question mark for the Revs is the health of defender of the year candidate, Jose Goncalves. He was questionable earlier in the week, but at this point looks likely to be on the field this weekend. One thing that KC hasn't had to game plan for against the Revs in their two previous meetings is Juan Agudelo, who has been a big part off their push down the stretch. He was still with Chivas when the teams met in New England, and was out injured for the return leg in KC.

While Sporting hasn't had to deal with Agudelo this season, the Revs haven't had to deal with one of KC's main weapons this year either, Graham Zusi. Zusi missed the team's first match up while on duty with the US national team and the second due to injury. So both teams will have a weapon the other hasn't seen this year. The big question for Peter Vermes is the forward line. KC's forwards haven't exactly been on fire lately. Six goals in the final two months of the season. Those goals came in just three of KC's seven league games in that stretch. The defense has been the ones that have carried KC in that stretch. In September and October, KC has pitched four shutouts in the seven league games and also scored a goal to give KC a win against Columbus. The biggest question has been the absence of Claudio Bieler, Sporting KC's designated player, who has played a total of 12 minutes since his last start in KC's 3-0 win over Columbus. It's led to comparisons of Omar Bravo and his falling out with Vermes that saw him depart KC after just one season. With the lack of scoring punch from Dom Dwyer, Jacob Peterson, CJ Sapong, and Soony Saad lately you would think Bieler would find himself back in the lineup, but that's certainly not a given.

Myers - Collin - Besler - Sinovic
Rosell - Olum
Saad - Dwyer - Sapong

Number to Remember - 0 - The number of goals that New England has scored on KC in the last two years in league play. The last goal by the Revolution on KC was Rajko Lekic in the 38th minute on July 30th of 2011. That's a string of 502 minutes at this point. In that stretch, KC has outscored New England 8-0.

Key Match Up - Dom Dwyer vs Jose Goncalves - Dwyer has just two league goals for KC since returning from his loan to Orlando City. Tomorrow he'll go up against one of the leading candidates for defender of the year in MLS. Sporting needs to start to get production out of their forwards. Even the great defensive team of 2000 still had Miklos Molnar there to score goals. None of KC's forwards are Bieler's quality, but someone needs to step up at the forward position for KC.

PREDICTION - It's not the Dynamo, that's at least one good thing to say about the game tomorrow, KC won't be playing their playoff kryptonite. The Revolution won't be pushovers though. They're a young team that is playing extremely well right now. KC though has the best road form in the league this year (finishing with just 1 win less than they had at home this year, which also speaks to how poor their home form was). Sporting will need one of their big players to step up and that will likely fall mainly on the shoulders of Zusi. The US national team player needs to step up in the playoffs. Not that he's not stepped up so but he very well need to take this team's offense on his back if the offense continues to struggle. Tomorrow though I think Vermes has learned a bit from last year in Houston he'll be ok with a point, and if KC do concede he's not going to throw numbers forward the same way he did last year that led to Houston's second goal.

SKC - 0
NE - 0

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