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Preview: Sporting Kansas City vs Seattle Sounders

Familiar foes face off for the first time in 2023

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Sounders take on one of their most hated opponents this weekend in Sporting Kansas City. With both clubs at opposite ends of the table, it will be interesting to see what kind of matchup we see on Saturday. How badly will the Sounders miss their international players? Will SKC finally bounce back? Let’s take a look at what’s going to happen.

One key stat

Winless in 10 — The Sounders are winless in their last 10 road games (1D, 9L) dating back to last season. This is the longest run in club history without a road win. Their five-game road losing streak is also tied for the longest in franchise history.

What the Sounders will try to do

Seattle has no choice but to change their lineup, but that doesn’t mean they have to shake up its approach at all. I expect to see Cristian Roldan at RB, Albert Rusnak at RM, Josh Atencio at DM, Kelyn Rowe at LB, Leo Chu at LM, and Jordan Morris up top. This shuffle of players allows the Sounders to effectively play to their strengths, albeit with a bit of a different cast of players.

The best soccer we’ve seen this season from the Sounders has involved Héber playing as a de facto hold-up man so the rest of the team can transition up the field. It’s been a bit different with Raúl Ruidíaz in the lineup, but I think you can play the same way with Morris up top, if you wanted to. Another thing that Morris brings you is pace in behind, which is not something Ruidíaz or Héber have in their locker. I could see the Sounders having Jordan float to the right side of the field to try to catch SKC’s out based on what they try to do.

What Sporting KC will try to do

SKC is off to their worst start since Bill Clinton was still president, having only scored one goal in four matches. They’ve managed two 0-0 draws in that time, so their record is 0-2-2. It’s not the ideal start for Peter Vermes and his squad, but they’ve been ravaged by injuries to start the season.

Just as any coach or team would say, they don’t want these injuries to be the excuse to a poor start. SKC will believe they can catch the Sounders out in this one. As always, they’re a high-pressure team who play as if their press is their biggest playmaker. If it goes well, the Sounders could be in a world of hurt on Saturday. If it goes wrong? Well, the Colorado Rapids game comes to mind.

I think the numbers surrounding SKC paint a really telling picture for you. They rank first in shots outside of the box (9 per game), second in left-sided attacks (43%), and Erik Thommy and Daniel Salloi are second & third in shots from outside of the box. They force you to turn it over on your right side and quickly get shots off.

Vibe check

This one sorta feels like the biggest test of the season so far, huh? Feels really silly to say that after Seattle played well against LAFC and FC Cincinnati, but if the Sounders don’t manage to win this one they will have gone three games without a win. That’s a thread I do not want to have to consider. We’ll learn a lot about what sort of nerves this squad has after 90 minutes in Kansas City on Saturday.

How close to full strength is everyone?

  • The Sounders are missing six players due to international duty, including three likely starters. Other than that, the squad will be without Héber for one more week.
  • SKC probably has the worst injury situation in the league right now. All three of their Designated Players are listed on the injury report in one way or another, and none of them are expected to start this weekend. The only one that could remotely play at all on Saturday is Alan Pulido, who is coming back from being injured for more than a year.

Projected lineups

Sounders (4-2-3-1): Frei; Rowe, Ragen, Yeimar, C. Roldan; Joao Paulo, Atencio; Chu, Lodeiro, Rusnak; Morris

Opponent (4-3-3): Pulskamp; Sweat, Fontas, Voloder, Zusi; Thommy, Walter, Espinoza; Salloi, Agada, Shelton

What you need to know

Sounders record (3rd in the West, 6th in the Shield): 2-1-1, +5 GD

SKC record (13th in the West, 28th in the Shield): 0-2-2, -2 GD

Where: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas

Kickoff time: 5:30pm PT

Commentators (AppleTV): Dre Cordero and Jamie Watson

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