Contests between the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City are always tight. A single goal, late in the game, changes so much when the two teams combine for so few chances. The rivalry started with a Mike Fucito winner late in 2010 (also Parke in ‘11, Rosales and Neagle in ‘11, Scott in ‘12 but then the PK loss, Traore in ‘13, Barrett in ‘14, Valdez in ‘16) and continues through a 3-nil plastering at KC.
These are two sides that had very different transfer windows. Sporting, though leading the West, gave away their best asset in a play for the future. Seattle acquired a starter, two rotational players and a bench guy as they charge up the standings.
First place could be on the line (pending results in Toronto, Dallas, and Houston). It’s the biggest game of the season, so far. JOEtv and Univsion-Seattle have it in Seattle and ROOT Sports will be showing it outside of the Puget Sound market. It is a 1 PM start.
Cody from The Blue Testament answers Three Questions.
SaH: Losing Dom Dwyer is going to kill the offense. Can Vermes create an attack without him?
tBT: The first game without him saw three goals and a win making everyone feel better. But a failure to close out the last two matches has tested that faith. Diego Rubio replaced Dom at the center of the attack and his style of play is perhaps more suited to the way this team plays now. There is also plenty of talent on the wings in Gerso (Seattle are aware of him, I think), Salloi and Blessing.
With everyone stepping up into new responsibilities, it will take some time to hit their stride. But yes... I think this offense can work without Dwyer.
SaH: Congratulations on making another Open Cup Final (I still hate PKs). How will those 120 minutes plus penalties impact Saturday's match?
tBT: They seem to work for SKC, but they drive me insane. I have to think we will see some rotation this weekend.
Erik Palmer-Brown has given Vermes reason to put him on the field any chance he has. I expect to see him in for Ike Opara who is just a few weeks removed from a pretty scary concussion. Last weekend Vermes tried to rest Feilhaber but was forced to bring him on the for the second half. Then he played all 120 midweek. That being said, both Espinoza and Ilie have not had any rest in the midfield either. Up front I think we will finally see Latif Blessing get a breather.
SaH: Jordan Morris v. Graham Zusi, huh?
tBT: No one is entirely sure how exactly Zusi has worked so well. But it has. I give a lot of credit to Opara who is stationed right next to him. But Zusi has a very high IQ for the game and it has worked very well in MLS. I don't want to see him start for the US right there against Germany or Brazil, but the track record of this back four in MLS is undeniable.
It will definitely be a battle to keep an eye on. That is, if Zusi isn't given a break as well.
Lineup: Melia, Abdul-Salaam, Palmer-Brown, Besler, Sinovic, Ilie, Espinoza, Medranda, Gerso, Rubio, Salloi
tBT: It was a very active Summer window in Seattle. Did the team address their needs and how do you see them fitting in? Might we see Victor Rodriguez make his debut Saturday?
SaH: Seattle added TAM players at left mid and right back, while also getting MLS depth at defensive mid and forward/winger. That's a great window, and yet disappointing because they were so close to also adding a DP. Even without getting Derlis Gonzalez from Dynamo Kiev the additions of Kelvin Leerdam (RB) and Victor Rodriguez (LM) solidify a lineup that was already quite good when healthy. Throw in a Lamar "stoppage time" Neagle and things are pretty good.
In the attack at least two of Bruin, Morris, Rodriguez and Neagle won't start when healthy. Various other position groups also have depth like that. In the early season (like when Sporting KC crushed Seattle) the team was playing Fisher (now the 8th fullback), Alfaro (now the 5th CB), Marshall (best CB) and Delem (the 9th fullback). This weekend you will see the top starter at every position on the backline. The attack hasn't seen that big of an improvement, but it's still improved.
tBT: Looks like the Sounders have kicked into gear as of late and got themselves back among the leaders in the West. Unbeaten in seven straight MLS games. What gives?
SaH: Health is a big key, but it's also been about just having the injuries scattered around the field rather than all at right back and centerback at the same time. That's meant playing a 3rd best guy rather than the 6th best.
There is also a string of strong performances from starting players that weren't getting it done (Dempsey, Morris, Lodeiro). Getting a consistent offense is huge.
Lastly, it cannot be stated strongly enough, the first two thirds of the season gave Seattle one of the most difficult schedules in MLS and now it's home heavy and wonderful.
tBT: What, if anything, worries you about this game?
SaH: Peter Vermes does an excellent job of slowing other attacks. Sometimes it is choices fouls during the transition game, others it is immediate pressure high while the backline retreats into defense, but whichever route it takes a team facing Sporting knows that it will not gain ground simply. Games against KC are always choppy, which is probably why so many between Seattle and Sporting come down to extra time.
Lineup: Frei; Jones, Marshall, Torres, Leerdam; Roldan, Svensson; Morris, Dempsey, Lodeiro; Bruin