Monday, August 15, 2016

CCL Match Day 1: Leg Two of Sporting's Tour

Sporting Kansas City head out of MLS play and into their second game of their brutal five game stretch as they are in Trinidad ready to take on Central FC, the Trinidad Pro League Champions in their first game in this year's tournament. Unlike Kansas City's trips to Central America when they've been in this competition in the past, Kansas City doesn't look like they're taking the fly in and out quickly approach.

This will be Central's second game in the tournament, having already hosted the Vancouver Whitecaps a couple weeks ago. The Whitecaps escaped Trinidad with a 1-0 win and currently top the group with three points. Central will have reinforcements for the game tomorrow that they didn't have for the Vancouver game as Trinidad and Tobago international, and recent Atlanta United signing Kenwyne Jones has been cleared to play for the club after being loaned to Central ahead of Atlanta's first MLS season in 2017. He'll obviously be the main point of focus for Kansas City on the field tomorrow, but Central has speed elsewhere on the field that could cause Kansas City a number of problems on the back line tomorrow.

Kansas City still has to go with the delicate balance of player rotation for this game with a pair of games against the Vancouver Whitecaps coming up. In preparation for that the team has called up Amer Didic and Tyler Pasher from the Swope Park Rangers for the game tomorrow and both could see playing time, potentially even starting. With Ike Opara suffering an injury against FC Dallas on Saturday, Peter Vermes could look to rest someone like Nuno Coelho ahead of potentially starting against Vancouver on Saturday in favor of the 21 year old Didic, who has arguably been Swope's most consistent defender this season. Elsewhere, Sporting has Roger Espinoza and Soni Mustivar available after the pair missed Saturday's game due to suspension. The game will definitely be a good sign of how KC will treat the tournament. With Vancouver already having won their game here, KC needs to try to keep pace with Canadians in the group.

Davis - Rubio - Hallisey
Espinoza - Feilhaber
Sinovic - Ellis - Didic - Abdul-Salaam

Number to Remember - 2 - This is actually Kansas City's second trip to Trinidad in the club's history. Back in the 2002 CONCACAF Champions Cup, the Kansas City Wizards earned a 1-0 win against W Connection in Trinidad thanks to a goal by Francisco Gomez in the 85th minute. KC turned around and won the return leg (the Champions Cup was a home-home knock out competition at the time) 2-0 to advance to play Santos Laguna in that year's tournament.

Key Match Up - KC central defense vs Kenwyne Jones - Jones will easily be the most recognizable name on the Central FC roster tomorrow. He's also going to be a handful for Kansas City's center backs to deal with. You almost want to go with a taller pairing than the predicted one above simply to give you some more coverage in dealing with the Trinidad captain.

PREDICTION - A loss here would put KC into a big hole with only four games in the group. It'd basically require Kansas City to go out and win their final three games. KC will need to do some lineup shuffling due to their upcoming schedule, but should be able to put out a lineup that can at least earn a draw on the road. The pace for Central could cause KC a ton of problems tomorrow, Sporting has not shown a great ability to shut down those teams that can really counter with speed. In the end I think KC will do enough to get a point, but their winless streak on the road is going to continue.

SKC - 1 (Rubio)
CFC - 1 (Jones)

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