Friday, April 18, 2014

Sporting Welcome the East

Sporting KC has spent the entirety of the early MLS season playing the Western Conference. The team's first five games have all been against the Western Conference, with Sporting earning a 2-1-2 record against the West going 1-1 on the road and 1-0-2 at home. But now Kansas City steps back into conference play as the team's next 10 games are against the Eastern Conference. Every team that KC plays between now and the team's break for the 2014 World Cup will be against a conference rival, starting this Saturday against Montreal.

The Impact come into tomorrow's game winless on the season, with a 0-3-3 record after drawing with the Chicago Fire 1-1 last week in Montreal. The Impact have two dangerous goal scorers now up top as they have Marco Di Vaio who scored 20 goals last year, and the recently acquired Jack McInerney, who scored in the team's draw last weekend. Another new face for the Impact is their coach, Frank Klopas. The former KC player moved to take over the job in Montreal after leaving the Chicago Fire at the end of last season. The big question on Montreal heading into this game is if the team will be adopting Klopas' tactics he's deployed the last few years at Sporting Park. This has involved packing it in, slowing the game down and trying to hit on the counter. This has led to two 0-0 draws and just three goals scored in the last four times these teams have met at Sporting Park. With that strategy picking up a point on the road, I'd expect similar tactics to be deployed by the Impact tomorrow.

And with the way that KC has finished chances at home, it's not overly surprising if they do. Sporting has yet to score from the run of play at home in league play this season. Their last goal at home from the run of play was in the Eastern Conference finals against Houston, a span of 505 minutes since Dom Dwyer beat Tally Hall that KC has gone without a goal in the run of play against MLS competition (their goal against Cruz Azul in the Champions League was a run of play goal though). The team has always struggled a bit offensively to put the ball away while generating a number of chances, but the team can't keep relying on penalty kicks or set pieces, someone needs to start finding goals from the run of play. The big question for Kansas City will be who is going to start up top for KC. Whether it'll be Dwyer or the team's designated player, Claudio Bieler. So far this season Peter Vermes has rotated the two with them alternating starts over the course of the first seven games in all competitions. If Vermes keeps to that pattern, Bieler should start this weekend. But the argument can be made that the lack of consistency is one of the things that is causing problems for the forwards. I think Vermes will try to correct that tomorrow and start Dwyer.

Myers - Collin - Besler - Sinovic
Olum - Nagamura
Zusi - Dwyer - Zizzo

Number to Remember - 4 - In the theory of win at home, draw on the road, KC has dropped four points so far this season at home after draws with FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake. It goes back to the team's lack of finishing.

Key Match Up - Lawrence Olum vs Felipe - With Oriol Rosell suspended for this game a lot will fall on the shoulders of Olum to fill that gap. Olum has done well in that position when called upon, including coming off the bench after only eight minutes in last year's MLS Cup final. Still Olum will need to be on his game tomorrow, Felipe can cause KC a number of issues in the midfield.

PREDICTION - I expect this game to be like the Fire games the past few years at Sporting Park. Which is to say I expect it to be a fairly ugly game unless KC can score early. In Klopas' tenure as Fire coach, KC's one win at Sporting Park came when they scored in the opening 10 minutes. The longer the game goes scoreless the further back Klopas had his team sit. I expect similar from Montreal. The difference with the Impact is that KC will have to be more mindful of the counter. With the likes of Di Vaio and McInerney, the Impact have more of an ability to hit back at KC when they push numbers forward than the Fire did against KC. The Impact though have been allowing a number of goals so far this year and that is something that will hopefully help KC confidence wise to find the net a couple times tomorrow night. With the extra break and more finishing practice over the past few weeks, I'd expect KC to come out on top of this one though.

SKC - 2 (Dwyer, Zusi)
MTL - 0

1 comment:

hartley said...

I doubt this will happen, but I would love to see a midfield that keeps Nags where he usually plays, while moving Benny back to dmid to cover Felipe. Benny's defense has been awesome. And yes, so has his attack. But I just think a first half of Benny at dmid would really clamp down on Montreal's attack. Then you can move Benny back up for the second half, bringing Olum on and moving Zusi from AM to R/L Forward.

Yeah, I must be crazy. PV is not going to do anything like that. And besides, we will most likely score at least one on a set piece against the Impact since that is their biggest weak point.

Go, Sporting!