The Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City meet for the second time this year and only time in Commerce City with both clubs looking for full points. The Rapids are on a two game winning streak while Sporting has dropped two in a row but will feel confident in winning in Colorado. A large group of Sporting Kansas City fans are making the trek and it looks to be a full house at Richards.
Cody and I from The Blue Testament exchanged questions about this one and here is what we spoke about:
Burgundy Wave: Sporting Kansas City has been the a team that many have pipped to win MLS Cup this year. But after the destruction at home against San Jose and losing a lead to Columbus, things are not looking as rosy right now. What is going on at Sporting Park?
The Blue Testament: It was definitely a rough week for SKC. They were in the middle of 5 games in 15 days, key players were injured or suspended, guys playing in new spots, it was a bit of a clusterf***. A loss to San Jose wouldn't have been surprising after the incredibly emotional comeback win over Vancouver, but the scoreline was unheard of for this team at home. Then in Columbus it was a very wacky lineup that actually was almost able to pull out a result. Sporting was without Feilhaber, Espinoza, and Mustivar (The three starting midfielders) so I am not surprised the defense was put under so much pressure. They've now had a week off to recuperate and put those two rough games behind them. Still with several games in hand, the Supporters' Shield is not unreachable.
BW: Benny Feilhaber is having an MVP season and truly seems to be the engine that makes SKC go. What makes him special and more importantly, what does he have to do to get another look with the USMNT?
TBT: Benny is everything to this team right now. There are so many things that make him a special player! It is his vision and his audacity that allow him to create big chances with one pass. It's the respect he gets from opponents that allows more space for his teammates. Feilhaber has always had the technical ability. That is what got him overseas and time with the national team. But for me, what has really led to him now playing the best soccer of his career, is his fitness level and work rate. When he first came to play for Vermes, he was struggling to get real time on the field. To work in PV's 4-3-3 Benny had to become "Sporting Fit" and become a box to box player. He couldn't sit up field and wait to create chances. He has become a ferocious player who tracks back and goes for every roll of the ball and every tackle.
As for him and Jurgen, it would appear that there is just absolutely nothing the guy can do. Benny has said Jurgen told him things to work on and to become consistent with... things Benny feels he has proven already. How Klinsmann can see Feilhaber tear apart defenses, hit scorchers from outside the box, and not want to have that on his team is beyond me. I suppose it is possible we could all be blown away and Benny could get the call for the September friendlies that are coming up. It would be great for him, it would be the right call, but not something Sporting KC fans would really rejoice about. We spend a lot of time politicking that he is deserved, but he is the MVP of this team and without him there is a huge void.
BW: Tim Melia is quietly having a good year for SKC. Why is he not getting more press for his play?
TBT: Melia has been fantastic and a large reason Sporting are still in the hunt for all three trophies. He has without a doubt saved several points for this team between the sticks. His rise from MLS Pool Keeper to the bench in KC, and then to not only starting but playing so well, is something that has been covered a lot here in KC. To the point that I am positive Melia was tired of hearing about how unlikely his success was. The club had brought in Luis Marin from Chile in the off season and he was hoping to become the next great KC keeper in the company of Meola and Nielsen. He struggled with the language barrier with his backline he was benched and eventually left the team for family reasons. So behind him, and with the bright prospect of Jon Kempin, it was possible Melia was barely going to see any action at all this season. But when his chance came he took it and didn't look back.
It has been a great season for him, but it should be noted he has come back down to earth a little bit. For a while it looked like he couldn't be scored on, that has obviously changed considering all the goals SKC have given up the last three matches. Most of the troubles were with the defense (which struggles without the normal midfield), but Melia hasn't been the superhero he was looking like his first several games. He is still making big saves, works well with the back line, and plays with confidence. It'll be interesting to see what the club does in the off season at keeper.
Predicted Formation: (4-3-3) Melia, Sinovic, Besler, Ellis, Myers, Feilhaber, Nagamura, Quintilla, Nemeth, Dwyer, Zusi
Going with a bit of a wildcard lineup. It is unheard of for Peter to put a new player in the starting lineup so fast, but Quintilla was right in there all week at practice. This moves Benny back to that holding mid slot where played a few games last season.
Predicted Score: Sporting KC 3 - 1 Colorado Rapids
You can find my answers over at The Blue Testament.