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Sounders vs Sporting KC: Three Questions

Saturday’s match is on UniMás, UDN, JOEtv and Twitter at 1:00 PM.

MLS: 2018 Portraits
This is the only photo we have of Brad Evans with Sporting KC

The record for the longest post-shootout era winning streak is on the line. Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City both have streaks of seven matches taking all points. The Sounders run is active. Seattle last lost at home on June 30. KC won their last two road games and are on a four-game winning streak themselves.

This high-powered match moved to UniMás shortly after Raul Ruidiaz signed. That means that the digital stream will be available on Twitter. The game is available in both Spanish and English on TV and on radio.

Clint Dempsey retired and the club with which he spent his most time will honor him pregame.

Cody from The Blue Testament answers Three Questions.

SaH: This is probably the least important question as relates to the match, but what is Brad Evans status for Saturday and with the team in general?

tBT: The ongoing joke is that his status is just copy and pasted each week since the begging of the season. He’s listed as out and could be returning to training in a few weeks. The specific injury is rotating I believe, but he’s dealing with an Achilles injury at the moment. I’m more than fine with the signing. He is doing a lot as a teammate and if he is able to contribute in one single game this season I’ll be happy.

SaH: Who is the key to this year’s version of another strong defensive season?

tBT: Man, it is really difficult to pin-point one of them. But the reason is that almost the entire core has returned this season, and not just the back line. Ilie in front of them and Melia behind them are essential as well. Ike Opara was the Defender of the Year in MLS last year, so you’d think he would be an option. But he has actually had some very bad stretches at times this year. Matt Besler is playing well, Graham Zusi is in form, plus a combination of a couple different left-backs have been filling in nicely for the injured Jimmy Medranda. It is truly a combined effort of everyone on the field. Which is a testament to Peter Vermes’ coaching that the striker is the first defender.

SaH: How has the role of the center forward changed?

tBT: That role used to be, “hope Dom Dwyer can pull something out of his ass.” The CF was leaned upon heavily, often playing on an island. But if you look at the beginning of the season for SKC, Khiry Shelton was doing everything except scoring. And Peter Vermes loved it. With more attacking talent and versatility in the lineup, the center forward is more involved in build up an creating for teammates. While Dom Dwyer would attract all the defenders, he would still have to get the ball anyway. Now the striker makes the run to pull defenders but opens up room for Johnny Russel, Daniel Salloi, Yohan Croizet, Gerso, Felipe Gutierrez, Roger Espinoza or Graham Zusi to do the work.

Projected Lineup:

Tim Melia, Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez, Daniel Salloi, Diego Rubio, Johnny Russell

tBT: The Sounders were bad. Now the Sounders are good. Please explain.

SaH: The boring answer is health. Seattle has two players with more than 2,000 minutes at this point (Sporting has five) and only four players with more than 1,700 minutes (Sporting has eight). The injuries hit every part of the roster with only Stefan Frei, Cristian Roldan and Chad Marshall not missing significant time. Coach Brian Schmetzer took a conservative approach during the worst of the injury issues, pulling into a defensive shell. Prior to the unbeaten streak they only had 13 goals scored, a mere eight at home. The defense was stout and remains so, but as the highest quality players returned from injury the attack is functional. With 19 goals scored in the 10-match unbeaten run they should be expected to win games. With a defense that only gave up 5 goals during that stretch they are dominating. With the current personnel Schmetzer might never push for a free flowing attack, but he will continue to use possession to stifle opposing sides and lull them to sleep so that Seattle’s shots come from good spaces, even if they are infrequent.

tBT: With five goals and five assists during Seattle’s unbeaten run, how should Sporting KC deal with Nicolas Lodeiro?

SaH: If I wanted to beat Seattle I would certainly look to control Lodeiro more than anyone. The problem is that he roams freely. While he currently starts in a central position he drifts wide regularly, which means that every midfielder and defender has to know where he is if teams stick with zonal systems. Seattle ran into a similar issue when facing Atlanta. The technique deployed there was to man-mark Almiron. It basically meant attacking with one fewer player and having a defensive shape that looked like something from the early 90s, but it can work. If Sporting KC were to do this it would mean needing to utilize Sanchez in an entirely different role.

tBT: Can you provide any us insight on the sudden retirement of Clint Dempsey?

SaH: It doesn’t make sense. It’s not great for the team. Clint was struggling through injury, and not playing well when playing. He might have been down to the 14th or 15th most useful player on the squad. To do all the struggle to get back healthy just to be a fringe player must have influenced his decision. It’s been ages since Dempsey wasn’t a top 3 player on the roster (no matter the team). That’s a huge transition that came quickly, as last year he scored more goals than in any other calendar year. Yet, he was done. There was no longer a World Cup carrot dangling in front of him, and not even US tournament play. With the Sounders he’d helped win every trophy that MLS offers. It wasn’t a surprise that Clint Dempsey wasn’t going to play in 2019. The surprise was that he wasn’t going to play in September or the rest of 2018.

Lineup Prediction:

Stefan Frei; Brad Smith, Chad Marshall, Kim Kee-hee, Kelvin Leerdam; Osvaldo Alonso, Gustav Svensson; Harry Shipp, Nicolas Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan; Raul Ruidiaz

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