For Sporting Kansas City, today's 4 PM game will be their 1st ball kicked in anger since they fell two-posts short to Portland. They've made many changes, the biggest of those being bringing in former Houston Dynamo player Brad Davis and Montreal Impact midfielder Justin Mapp. Their most significant loss was Krisztián Németh, who chased riches in Qatar. Seattle Sounders also have their changes, and both fanbases expect more from 2016 than they got from 2015. Today, that journey begins.
Cody, from the Blue Testament, answers Three Questions.
SaH: How will Sporting KC deal with the loss of Nemeth's scoring?
tBT: There is no one answer to that. It is going to be a mix of everyone. Brad Davis and Justin Mapp have been acquired and will each be playing on the wing opposite Zusi where Nemeth was last year. But those two players are simply not Nemeth, or even really comparable in any way. But without goal hungry Nemeth around, Dom Dwyer is going to get targeted more. His production dipped last year, but he has another year of experience under his belt and looks fit for a big season. Also, Graham Zusi was struggling with injuries all last season and his healthy now. He has been really confident and aggressive in preseason, even scoring a beautiful curler that was vintage Zusi. Some of the missed goals/assists from Nemo will come from him, as well as the Davis/Mapp combination. Another thing to note, is Roger Espinoza. He spent last season acclimating to the league again, and was injured a lot of the year. He is more than capable of supplying assists and a few goals as well. SKC have 19 year old Hungarian Daniel Salloi to backup Dom, but it looks like more reinforcements are on the way with 22 year old Diego Rubio apparently soon to be signed. Bottom line is that Peter Vermes is expecting everyone on the team to step up and contribute. This team is incredibly deep and it will be a group effort.
SaH: Brad Davis is a huge acquisition via trade. How does he fit into Vermes' system?
tBT: Although he came from a huge rival and was hated by a lot of people in KC, Brad Davis has actually slid in seamlessly so far. He talks about how it didn't take much to transition and he is in his same veteran role. He is listed on the injury report and went in from practice early last week, but he looks like he's going to be a starter on the wing for Vermes. He and Zusi have spoken and have an understanding that neither want to get stuck on one side. They have been switching up the wings multiple times a game, sometimes every few minutes. They are effective from both sides and they each really enjoy being able to cut inside and attack the middle of the field as well. One thing that has been apparent, is that Davis has formed a pretty good relationship with Dwyer. If those two can continue to connect this season, it will be very dangerous for the rest of the league.
SaH: Can Benny repeat on last year's success?
tBT: There is really no reason to think he cannot have another huge year. Last season was the best of his career, so to talk about surpassing those numbers will be tough. But Sporting KC are very well rounded and deep. This year the defense is not in shambles. The midfield have been together for a full season. Benny should have far less defensive responsibilities this time around. At one point last year he legitimately played CB for a few minutes in a real game. There are a lot of people around him on the field that are smart, experienced, and able to finish. I will say that his goal total would probably drop a bit, as Dwyer could resume his role as the PK taker. But this team is going to have a really dynamic attack and with Benny able to be up the field more this year, I think he will be just as dangerous, creative, and important as he was last year.
Projected Starting lineup
Melia; Myers, Coelho, Besler, Sinovic; Mustivar, Espinoza, Feilhaber; Zusi, Dwyer, Davis (with 6 injuries, this lineup could look really different)
tBT: How will the Seattle Sounders deal with the loss of Martins' scoring?
SaH: The number one way will be Jordan Morris, we'll talk about that more later. But there are other ways too. At the end of the Summer Transfer Window Seattle added a DP forward, a TAM CB and the Austrian David Beckham to play LW/CAM. While that centerback is out until May after an ACL injury the other two add power to the offense that wasn't there for the majority of 2015. Nelson Haedo Valdez is a hold up forward with strong air skills and a bit of a shot. Andreas Ivanschitz is a slick passer who started to demonstrate that he can shoot from distance this year. Sounders certainly lost a game changer in Oba, but they have a more rounded team with more scoring threats in 2016. There could be three guys with 10+ goals (Dempsey, Valdez, Morris).
tBT: Any chance a rushed preseason and the CCL match Wednesday night in Mexico have an influence on the Rave Green's form this Sunday? I may have found myself on some level, very deep down, possibly, kind of rooting for the Sounders the past couple weeks. It's unfortunate to see everyone eliminated.
SaH: Coach Sigi Schmid wishes they had another two weeks of practice. I think competing, and fairing well, against Club America is great prep for the MLS season. Sporting KC doesn't have the counter-attack that CA does. Sporting doesn't have the technical skill on the backline that CA does. Sporting doesn't have the crossing ability that CA does. Those three things hurt the Sounders and there is no team in this league that combines the skillset that beat Seattle in CCL. Plus, Clint Dempsey looks like Captain America again.
tBT: What have you seen from Jordan Morris so far? Is Rookie of the Year already locked up or what?
SaH; Jordan's lack of confidence in his left-footed shot might have cost Seattle a goal in the home leg. His comfort level out on the right wing isn't great. On top of this he had the least time in training camp as Jurgen wanted him around for Camp Cupcake. KC fans are going to see the least ready version of Jordan Morris as a Sounder.
In late Summer he will hit the rookie wall. It's what he does in Fall that will determine if he's the Rookie of the Year or not. Odds are in his favor, but it's not like everyone can pull a Cyle Larin. If Morris scores 10-12 goals it's his award. A few less than that and he's still a great part to have on the team.
Frei; J.Jones, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Alonso, Roldan; Ivanschitz; Dempsey, Valdez, Morris