Friday, March 13, 2015

Match Day 2: Sporting KC at FC Dallas

Sporting KC head on the road for the first time in the 2015 season as they've traveled to Dallas for their first match against a Western Conference opponent since their move back to the West this season. It'll be a familiar opponent for Kansas City though as the two MLS originals have met 49 times in the past, with KC leading the overall series 20-19-10.

Dallas comes into the game on the back of a late game winner in their season opener at home against the San Jose Earthquakes. Blas Perez scored in second half stoppage time to lead Dallas to the 1-0 win, redirecting a shot with his head into the net. Dallas had an impressive end to the 2014 season, playing well under Oscar Pareja in his first season as coach of Dallas. With the likes of Fabian Castillo running at defenders, the Dallas attack poses a number of problems for KC's back line, especially with Matt Besler out. Defensively, Dallas has recent national teamer, Matt Hedges anchoring the center of defense. Behind him will be either Chris Seitz, who started Dallas' opener, or Dan Kennedy, who the team acquired in the Chivas USA dispersal draft.

For KC the big question is who is going to replace Besler in the center of KC's defense next to Ike Opara. The options range from Erik Palmer-Brown, to the recently acquired Jalil Anibaba, to Kevin Ellis, who has returned from his concussion and will apparently be available for selection. Based on tweets by KC Star beat writer, Sam McDowell, it would seem that KC's teenage U20 international, Palmer-Brown looks set to start his first game of the season. After the center back position the question is whether Peter Vermes will do something to try to stabilize the midfield a bit more. There seemed to be issues last week for Benny Feilhaber and Roger Espinoza in regards to one staying home and one attacking more depending on the situation. Does Vermes try to work things out between the two of them and have them start again Saturday, or does he look to insert someone like Paulo Nagamura to bring some more stability in the midfield while sacrificing Bernardo Anor (who Nagamura subbed in for against New York) or possibly Krisztian Nemeth. In the end I think Vermes sticks with Espinoza and Feilhaber for consistency, but has them play a little deeper this game than they did at home against New York.

Dia - Opara - EPB - Sinovic
Feilhaber - Espinoza
Zusi - Dwyer - Anor

Number to Remember - 1 - From Sporting's By the Numbers, the home team in this series since 2010 has just 1 win in 6 in this series(1-3-2). That win was by Dallas in July of 2010. One is also the number of losses that Dallas has at home in their last 14 home games (11-1-2), that's home form that Kansas City only wishes that they had right now.

Key Match Up - Ike Opara vs Blas Perez - After going up against the MLS Golden Boot winner last weekend, Opara will now have to deal with another consistent goal scorer. Perez though is a different type of striker than Bradley Wright-Phillips, Perez will be much more physical with Opara than BWP was and will be a different challenge for Opara to deal with. At the same time, Opara's match up with Perez will be with Castillo being a pest running at KC's defense, which will cause its own problems.

PREDICTION - This should be a good test of where this Sporting team is at in this early part of the season.Dallas is a good young team that is well coached. KC's road form under Vermes the last few years has been quite good, compared to the rest of the league. Dallas though is extremely good at home under Pareja and will be ready for the game. I'd love to see a KC win for the 800 or so traveling Cauldron who will help turn Toyota Park into Sporting Park South, but I question whether that'll be enough. Dallas is a good team with plenty of attacking options, this will be a much sterner test than New York was. I'm not sure KC gets out of Dallas with anything tomorrow.

SKC 1 - (Dwyer)
FCD 2 - (Perez, Diaz)

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