Sorry, it's a little later than usual, but here are The Daily Wiz's answers to our three questions preceding tonight's game against Sporting Kansas City. (No questions the other way, sorry)
1 - Sporting's typical three forward set is Kamara, Sapong, Convey. Will Seattle see those three in light of international duty and injury? How will the three that start work together?
Actually there is a very slight probability that neither of theses players start for Sporting Kansas City. I know Convey definitely won't start due to injury and I doubt Kamara gets the start either stemming from the amount of football he's played recently and from the jet lag gained from traveling half way across the world. CJ Sapong is also on the injury list with a slight knock but in all likelihood he'll get the start. Sporting's forward three will look a little different than what most Seattle fans are used to if they've watched any of KC's games. Most likely Jacob Peterson(free agent, acquired over the off season) will start on the right wing in place of Kamara, Teal Bunbury will get the start up front at the striker position, and CJ Sapong will round out SKC's three pronged attack with a position on the left. This also means that Sporting KC will change shapes every so often. Lots of times we'll see CJ move over and play up top with Bunbury(Peterson tucking back), making an athletic and tall strike partnership up top that are especially dangerous on crosses.
2 - Graham Zusi has developed from a routine MLS player to fringe US National Team player. What has changed about his game?
Basically Graham has gained a lot of confidence in the past couple of years. In 2010 he saw a fair amount of playing time for being in his second year with KC after being drafted in 2009 and in 2011 he moved into a starting role with the departure of Jack Jewsbury in Sporting's three man midfield. During the middle of 2011 is when he really began to find his stride. You could see that since being drafted he had become a much smarter player on the ball and his technical skills, especially when it comes to striking a ball, had improved drastically. With club talisman Davy Arnaud receiving blow after blow of injuries there was even more room for Zusi in Sporting's midfield and he was basically assured a starting spot given he wasn't suspended or injured. From that point on Zusi has been given a very loose role in SKC's team, of course he gets back to defend when need be but he is really what get's KC's attack going. He can push up into a second-striker role knowing that Julio Cesar and Roger Espinoza have his defensive duties covered. So all-in-all it comes down to an increase in playing time wherein he's been able to develop as one of the leagues most dangerous attacking midfielders and an increase in his ability to roam in KC's attack.
3 - 4-3-3's can leave the flanks open to the opposition. With the Sounders having a DP on each wing how will Sporting cope?
You're right, 4-3-3's do leave the flanks open, but only if the RW's and LW's don't drop back to defend. Peter Vermes has stressed from day one that his wingers have got to get back and help out the fullbacks, he's helped guys like CJ Sapong and Kei Kamara(who started out as a striker in KC) realize that they have defensive responsibilities as well. It's part of the reason SKC are very selective when choosing their players, they have to meet a very high physical requirement, which is part of the reason KC is known for their athletic abilities. In Vermes' 4-3-3 everyone is constantly moving and the wingers are an integral part of that movement, so while other teams employing a 4-3-3 formation may not be able to handle Seattle's wingers I believe KC are more than capable of holding their own.
Here's who we think will start of the Sounders: Andrew Weber; Leo Gonzalez, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, Zach Scott; Osvaldo Alonso; Alex Caskey, Brad Evans, Mauro Rosales; Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero.