Ahead of the two legs against Sporting Kansas City starting tonight at 5:30 PM, Justin from our fantastic SKC blog The Daily Wiz and I exchanged a few questions about SKC and our Colorado Rapids. First up are my questions with him, then I'll list my answers to his questions.
UZ: Sporting Kansas City obviously have an incredibly deep striker group. With all of them seemingly at equal standings - three of them are tied with 9 goals a piece - which player do you think is the most dangerous in the group?
Justin: If I had to choose, I’d have to go with Kei Kamara. Usually we’ve seen Kamara, Omar Bravo, and either Teal Bunbury, or CJ Sapong up top for Sporting KC.
Bunbury has shown flashes of greatness at different points throughout the season, but he’s not consistently able to deliver those kinds of performances. It seems his form will change from match to match, or at times, from half to half. Sapong has had a great rookie season, but to this point, he’s been better with his back to the goal, and finding his teammates to create chances, as opposed to taking the defense one on one as a pure striker.
Omar Bravo has been very good this season, and has no doubt lived up to his Designated Player status in his first season in MLS, but he has been prone to disappear at times. Kamara, in my opinion, has been the most consistent threat for Sporting KC this season. He’s continually been dangerous on the right side for Kansas City , causing problems for opposing defenses.
More after the jump!
UZ: After Livestrong Sporting Park opened, Kansas City got a ton of support and points at home moving them from last in the league to first in the East. Ahead of the road leg of this series, how has their road form changed since they got their new home?
Justin: While I do think Sporting KC is a good team whether they are on the road or at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park , I would say they aren’t as dangerous on the road.
Obviously, they struggled early in the season, when they played 10 consecutive road games to start the season. Since then, and the opening of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park , Sporting KC have been good on the road, but I don’t feel they are nearly as dangerous as they are at home. I’m not sure if that has something to do with confidence, but you can definitely see the difference. Which is why finishing first in the Eastern Conference was such a huge deal for the club. If they take care of business on the road on Sunday, I would have to think they’d feel pretty good about their chances when they play the second leg match on Wednesday.
UZ: Give us a rundown on SKC's usual lineup, formation and tactics.
Justin: Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes likes to attack, and he likes to attack often. The 4-3-3 formation he favors allows his team to do that quite well. Vermes likes for his team to force constant pressure on the ball, so needless to say, Sporting KC is an extremely aggressive team, which can cause them problems. At times, they’ve maybe been too aggressive, allowing teams to have success on the counter-attack. If Sporting KC can pressure the ball, but still remain disciplined on the defensive side of things, they are one of the tougher teams in MLS.
Usually we see a pretty consistent lineup from Vermes, with Jimmy Nielsen in goal, and with a backline of Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, and Seth Sinovic.
The backline has been solid for most of the season, and at this point, Vermes has his four guys that consistently start for him. Myers is having a break out year at right back, having finally gotten over the injury bug that had plagued him his first couple of seasons in Kansas City. Besler has been a rock in the middle of the Sporting KC defense, and one could make an legitimate argument that Besler is the team’s MVP. Sinovic has been a steal at left back, as he was released by both New England , and Real Salt Lake before signing with Sporting KC. He’s been very good on that left side, attacking up the flank and providing service to the Sporting front line. Collin’s been a big piece of the Sporting KC puzzle, as he provides toughness, and is never afraid to challenge opposing teams’ forwards (which is probably why he has 10 yellow cards this season).
Graham Zusi, and Julio Cesar are entrenched in the Sporting KC midfield at this point, with team captain Davy Arnaud, and Roger Espinoza splitting time at the last midfield spot. Roger had been playing a lot at the holding midfield role, but the emergence of Cesar at that position has allowed him to move higher up the pitch, and attack. Zusi has been amazing this year, and has quickly become one of the most dangerous long distance shooters, and set piece takers in MLS.
Up top, Vermes almost always starts Omar Bravo at the left winger position, and Kei Kamara at the right, with Teal Bunbury, and CJ Sapong switching in and out at the center forward position. As of late, Bunbury has seen the majority of the starts, and I expect he’ll start on Sunday, as well. Bunbury is a mixed bag at this point, but if he starts a game hot, he can cause major problems for opposing defenses. The only problem is that he only plays up to his potential half of the time, which is probably why we’ve seen so much of Sapong, who’s the more steady, consistent forward out of the two.
Justin: Rapids midfielder Jamie Smith tore his ACL in Colorado's 1-0 win over Columbus earlier this week. How will the loss of Smith impact the Rapids as they continue their playoff push?