Who You’ll Watch
The Sounders returned from their two-game road trip with four points out of a possible six and find themselves in fourth place with 34 points. Sporting Kansas City comes to town for an important Western Conference clash with a share of first place on the line.
Kansas City currently sits at the top of the West (37 points in 23 games played; 1.61 ppg) and the Sounders are just three points behind (34 points in 23 games played; 1.48 ppg).
Sporting embarrassed the Sounders 3-0 back in May, and this will be the final regular season opportunity for Seattle to get revenge.
The Sounders have had a full week to prepare for the Sporks after their 4-0 thumping of Minnesota United. Sporting, on the other hand, played last Sunday (1-1 draw with Atlanta United FC), and Wednesday night (1(4)-1(5) win against San Jose that went 120+ minutes at home in the semifinals of the US Open Cup.
Sporting Kansas City
Form: D-D-D-W-D; seven goals scored, six conceded
Top Goal Scorer: Gerso Fernandes, six goals
Top Assist Leaders: Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Benny Feilhaber and Roger Espinoza, three assists
Form: W-W-W-D-W; 14 goals scored, four conceded
Top Goal Scorer: Clint Dempsey, nine goals
Top Assist Leader: Joevin Jones, 10 assists
Absences: Injury, international duty, suspension
Sporting Kansas City
Cameron Porter (broken fibula and ligament damage in right ankle) is the lone Sporting player on the MLS injury report this week, and is out for the rest of the season.
The Sounders also have one player on the injury report. Osvaldo Alonso (left MCL sprain) is questionable for this game.
What to Watch
Sporting are both the same team, in terms of system and style, and a very different team, with the loss of Dom Dwyer, from the one Seattle faced earlier this year. A relentless press and defensive structure that comes from years of the same players playing the same roles has helped them maintain the top defense in the league. However, the mixture of Latif Blessing and a statue constructed of Orlando City’s allocation money hasn’t been the most productive in front of goal, and even before Dwyer’s departure their offense wasn’t exactly flooding the net with goals. Nothing is more indicative of their ongoing offensive struggles than that they hit 31 shots - 12 on target, and almost all of them weak - against the Earthquakes on Wednesday, and scored only once.
Peter Vermes’ decision to run out a full first-choice lineup in Wednesday’s Open Cup semifinal ultimately worked out well for them, earning the team a spot in the final. Not as great, however, was that the lineup went 120+ active minutes. For some reason, as regulars like Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza struggled up and down the pitch even during the dying minutes of regular time, The Scarlet King kept a substitute in reserve.
Of course, as Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs incarnate, it’s entirely possible Vermes decides to run the entire same lineup out. When it comes to his baby blue city, you never know what he may try to pass off as soccer.
Run them ragged - the Sporks can’t replace all the tired legs. They rely heavily on defense and their spacing and constant movement to maintain it. This has helped them concede the fewest shots per game in the league (1st at 9.6/game). This has also helped them avoid too many fouls committed (or at least called) per match (5th at 10.9/game), produced most of their possession and allowed them to maintain defensive possession for extended periods of time.
Without the crispness and continual movement, Sporting will undoubtedly struggle against a Seattle offense that moves the ball quickly and switches the field regularly. Balancing overloads, so as not to compress the field too much, and recognizing when rotations are slow and attacking the open space, will give the Sounders opportunities that normally don’t show up against SKC.
Stay aggressive - a natural follow-on from from tired legs, this has been less of an issue of late as Seattle has conceded possession in an attempt to open the game up and produce more opportunities. There’s almost no scenario that doesn’t see SKC bunkering like so many imperial soldiers on Endor, and that’s a situation that has resulted in the horseshoe of death in the past. Attacking, rather than probing, the opponent’s exhaustion will make the early afternoon go much more smoothly for Seattle.
Don’t let the divers get you down - There might not be a more prolific diver in the league than Blessing; Feilhaber, however, certainly makes every attempt to match him in theatrics, and Ilie Sanchez makes his best effort to join their club.
Try hard enough long enough and you’ll end up getting a call at some point. The Sounders will need to roll their eyes, walk away, and go on about their day of kicking the snot out of one of the least likeable teams in the league.
Sporting KC: Tim Melia; Jimmy Medranda, Ike Opara, Besler, Saad Abdul-Salaam; Soni Mustivar, Ilie, Feilhaber; Blessing, Diego Rubio, Fernandes
Seattle: Stefan Frei; Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Kelvin Leerdam; Gustav Svensson, Cristian Roldan; Jordan Morris, Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro; Will Bruin
How to Watch
Date/Time: Saturday, August 12 1:00 PM
Venue: CenturyLink Field
Television: JOEtv, Univision-Seattle
Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (English), El Rey 1360 AM (Spanish)