Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Playoff Match Day: Win or Go Home

Sporting Kansas City begin their playoff campaign tomorrow night in the same place that the club started the season, in Seattle, taking on the Seattle Sounders. Back in March, Sporting used a Nuno Coelho shot from distance, a Seattle red card, and some good goalkeeping to help Kansas City a 1-0 win on First Kick. A full almost nine months later the two teams meet for the third time this season, KC won the prior two games, winning by a combined 4-0 scoreline.

The last time KC saw the Sounders they were quitting on then coach, Sigi Schmid in their 3-0 loss to KC at Children's Mercy Park. That loss cost Schmid his job with the Sounders. Since then though, the Sounders have been one of the hottest teams in the entire league, going 8-2-4 over their final 14 games of the regular season to shoot themselves not only into the playoffs, but into a position to host tomorrow's game. They're a completely different team from that time, mainly due to the acquisition of Nicolas Lodeiro to come in and play in the midfield. The Uruguayan international has four goals and eight assists in 13 games since he signed with the club three days after the loss to KC. The club hasn't even missed a beat with Clint Dempsey going out with a medical issue either. Of all the teams in the playoffs probably the only team in better form right now is the New York Red Bulls who have not lost a game since July 3rd.

Kansas City looks set to receive a boost ahead of tomorrow's game with Jacob Peterson being ready to go for the game. Peterson has enjoyed a career year with six goals and one assist, but the fact that KC has been so reliant on him speaks to the team's issues on the wing throughout this season. To Peterson's credit though he is absolutely making the most of the opportunity and has given KC an option as a secondary goal scorer. Kansas City will need Peterson's involvement up top, while Roger Espinoza has done well in a return to the wing, the offense just hasn't seemed to really get things going with a central midfielder playing out on the wing, it also negates some of the best work Espinoza can do on the field when he's forced to that wide position. That said, with KC having won their last two games with the same lineup, Peter Vermes might very well be tempted to stick with the same 11 that have gotten results the last two games. At the very least I'd expect him to do that along the back line, where the team has pitched back to back shutouts since a pair of shutouts against Seattle and Portland at home in July.

Espinoza - Dwyer - Zusi
Nagamura - Feilhaber
Sinovic - Besler - Ellis - Abdul-Salaam

Number to Remember - 1 - That's the number of games in the series between these two teams that has been decided by more than a single goal. That was actually the last time the two teams met and Kansas City won 3-0.

Key Match Up - Dom Dwyer vs Chad Marshall - One of the big things talked about in regards to KC and their playoff run is their lack of diversity in attack, something KC fans have talked about most of the season. "Dwyer Island" has been in full effect throughout the season and tomorrow he'll be going up against one of the more experienced and strong center backs in the league in Marshall.

PREDICTION - KC hasn't been in bad form lately, but their form pales in comparison to that of Seattle's. The Sounders, playing at home in front of their crowd are the distinct favorites tomorrow. Add in Kansas City's woeful away form for most of the season and the hill to climb for KC looks quite daunting. At the same time Sporting has the experience in big games that you want in these type of situations. Unfortunately I don't think it will be enough against a Seattle team that seems to be a trendy pick as a dark horse to make MLS Cup out of the West.

SKC - 0
SEA - 2 (Morris, Lodeiro)

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