We're two games into the season, and the Rapids are undefeated despite two tough opponents starting off their schedule. Their toughest feat yet awaits them this weekend though, as the MLS Cup champs Sporting Kansas City come to Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The champs haven't had the greatest start to the season so far, but they're still a force to be reckoned with with Champions League action now done for them.
I talked with Ben from The Blue Testament about the Sporks, here's what he had to say about the champions going into Saturday's game. (By the way, you can see what I had to say about the Rapids in the return question volley over at their site.)
BW: Penalty kick against San Jose aside, Sporting's forwards are on quite a long goal drought. Which of the team's forwards seems the most likely to finally break that streak this weekend, and what's caused the lack of goals from up top?
TBT: I believe the lack of goals from up top has been the inconsistencies in the lineups that Sporting KC has had so far. First of all, Chance Myers hasn't played yet this season due to injury so Sporting KC loses his offensive production at the wingback position, leaving less opportunities to get the ball forward and to the front line, plus Graham Zusi sat out against FC Dallas so there was a lack of production there.
This week we'll probably see the closest thing to a starting lineup that we've seen all year because SKC only has to worry about MLS now that they're out of the Champions League. I believe we'll see a goal from either Claudio Bieler or Dom Dwyer, whoever is starting at center forward because this game will be the best service they have gotten in MLS play this year.
BW: The big offseason news out of SKC for most of us was Jimmy Neilsen's retirement and the team handing the job to Eric Kronberg. How has the long time backup done so far between the sticks?
TBT: Kronberg hasn't been lights out but he has been relatively decent. He's made several key saves and has shown off his pure athleticism in matches. He made a couple of boneheaded mistakes against Seattle and Cruz Azul but I believe that he will be better as the season goes on. You have to remember that the current back line has only played with Jimmy Nielsen and isn't so used to a keeper who comes off his line as much as Kronberg does. I see Kronberg and the back line meshing together better as the season goes on and turning into the dominant defense that we saw with Nielsen in goal.
BW: What's the biggest weakness in SKC's team and tactics? The biggest strength?
TBT: The biggest weakness right now has to be the fullbacks. Seth Sinovic is excellent and Chance usually is but his injury has forced Peter Vermes to use the depth at that position. Kevin Ellis and Mechack Jerome are good but they aren't at the level of Myers and they have been shredded by the offenses we've seen this year. I doubt Chance plays this Saturday so we'll likely see either Ellis or Jerome in at fullback.
The biggest strength has got to be the midfield. Benny Feilhaber has been on an absolute tear so far in 2014 and has been the man of the year so far for me. He wins duels, sets up opportunities and makes life a living hell for opposing back lines. Coupled with the always solid Paulo Nagamura and the wonderful Uri Rosell, Sporting KC has a great midfield in which to keep possession and set up chances.
BW: Lineup and formation prediction?
Thanks again to Ben at The Blue Testament for chatting with us. Head over to their site for all the info you'll need on our opponents for this Saturday.