Seattle is starting their season off with a familiar First Kick foe, Sporting Kansas City aka Kansas City Wizards. Kansas City remains fairly unchanged with a core of Benny Feilhaber, Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer. Major League Soccer veterans Brad Davis and Justin Mapp came to the club, while Krisztian Nemeth bolted.
Offensively the club is still going to be about playing midfield wingers as wing-strikers in a 4-3-3-like format. A player like Graham Zusi cannot switch with Dwyer and slide inside, unlike Nemeth or a Sounders winger like Jordan Morris. This makes the formation almost a christmas tree 4-3-2-1 with the wingers sliding back to get crosses in to a lone Dwyer.
Midfield-wise, Feilhaber and Espinoza just plan on beating up opponents. Benny showed a lot of talent connecting a defense that was always in disarray and the attacking mids. He burst onto the scene but cannot win a USMNT callup and he's still bitter about it. Expect him to look to take it up another notch this year. Unlike the Sounders with a trio in the middle, expect it to be a two-man-based triangle with two Fribergs and one Alonso as opposed to an attacker like Ivanschitz.
The midfield is more about preventing movement and shutting down the attack in the middle (shuffling it to the flanks) than facilitating attacks. This is extremely beneficial with how questionable their backline will be. Matt Besler is supposed to be the sturdy veteran, but after a down year last year it's questionable what we'll see. Kevin Ellis was a standout last year as one of the many young additions, but was still extremely exploitable. A striker group of Dempsey, Morris, and Valdez should give them nightmares. Seth Sinovic and likely Chance Myers will be in the fullback roles, but we could see Saad Abdul-Saalam, Jacob Peterson, or Amadou Dia play out of position as well.
Kansas City's bench is where the balance changes. Mapp is old and slow, but subbing on in the 65th minute gives a savvy veteran swagger to the physical bunch. Even if they start both Davis and Zusi, at least one will not be able to go 90, so they'll still have a free kick presence when the game is in its dying stages and could score one out of nowhere.
Biggest concerns: How will a tired Seattle team adjust to a truly lower level team than Club América, and two how will a battered and beaten Brad Evans handle Dom Dwyer. Chad Marshall made a handful of mental errors against Club América that were punished. While KC is less likely to successfully punish him for them, making mistakes will make Evans' job significantly harder when helping make last-ditch clearances and late decisions.
Seattle should win. Will they? Probably not because well...MLS. Sounders will prevail with a 3-1 win including a stoppage time insurance goal.
Sounders: Frei, Mears, Evans, Marshall, Jones, Alonso, Roldan, Ivanschitz, Morris, Valdez, Dempesy. The only change is Roldan for Friberg, who is likely out with a head injury.
Sporting KC: Melia, Myers, Ellis, Besler, Sinovic, Nagamura, Espinoza, Feilhaber, Zusi, Dwyer, Peterson.
Davis will sub on for Zusi if he's too tired and flip sides with Peterson or come on for Peterson in the 65th.