KANSAS CITY, KS - MARCH 17: Kevin Alston #30 of the New England Revolution heads the ball away from Bobby Convey #11 of the Sporting Kansas City in the first half at Livestrong Sporting Park on March 17, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
The New England Revolution are completing a grueling stretch of three games in seven days this weekend when they stop off in the American Heartland to take on Sporting Kansas City. The last time the Revs made the trip to LiveStrong Park they were posterized 3-0 by an SKC team marching on to a seven-game winning streak.
It looks a little different now. SKC is still at the top of the East, but they aren't the marauding, invincible juggernaut they appeared to be in the beginning of the season. New England, meanwhile, has played some encouragingly good soccer on their way to a respectable 6-9-4 record, and has at times looked like a dangerous playoff contender. That said, recent performances have looked bad and the Revs have not looked good on the road in 2012, so fans might want to brace themselves for some painful disappointment.
Today's Q&A is with Ben Gartland of The Daily Wiz, SB Nation's Sporting Kansas City blog.
TBM: SKC was the hottest item in MLS when the season started with that big winning streak, but it seems like the club started to hit some rough patches as the season wore on. Now, you're back in first place in the East and, frankly, I'm not sure there's a team in this conference that's better or more balanced than Sporting. Do you think you guys can take home the MLS Cup this year? How about the Supporters' Shield?
BG: I honestly think that Sporting Kansas City could bring home the MLS Cup and the Supporter's Shield. I think our size and power is better than most of the league's, but we have also have had matches where we have exhibited patience while waiting for the goals (Ex: 2-0 win over Columbus on 7/14).
San Jose is currently in the lead for the Supporter's Shield, but we have only two road games from now until September. We have always played well at home, which could help us gain some points.
As for the MLS Cup, if we are able to win the Supporter's Shield, there should be no reason why MLS Cup final is not at LiveSTRONG Sporting Park on December 1st.
TBM: The US Open Cup Final is coming up, and you guys have the Sounders (surprise). However, for once in this decade, the match is going to be played outside of Seattle. How important is it to SKC that they win this trophy in front of the home fans, and do you expect LiveSTRONG Sporting Park to be rocking?
BG: I cannot remember a match that I am more excited for than the US Open Cup final. I will be sitting in the Member's Stand and it will sure be rocking.
This franchise has not brought home any silverware since our Open Cup win back in 2004. It's extremely important that Sporting win this match, not because it would give us a Concacaf Champions League berth, not because it's Seattle and not because we get to bring home a trophy. It's because it would represent another step that Sporting KC has taken to rise above the mediocre ranks of the MLS that the Wizards occupied in the mid-to-late 2000s, and it would represent how far Sporting KC has come in recent years.
It's going to be a hell of a match.
TBM: This will be the second time the Revs and SKC meet each other in regular season play. Last time, SKC crushed New England statistically and on the scoreboard in a match that never really looked in doubt, but that was also the start of Sporting's prodigious winning run. What's changed since then for SKC, and has it been for better or worse?
BG: I believe that one of the problems we had after the seven game win streak to start the season was our lack of back line depth really started to show after our starting CB Matt Besler had to have his appendix taken out, and the whole back line suffered.
Since then we've signed one defensive back in Neven Markovic, and we're working on another. Our back line is better than it was back earlier in the season, and now we have the depth to back it up.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revolution fans should watch out for.
BG: Jacob Peterson. After Bobby Convey went down, Peterson had to step up and step up he did. He has been magnificent for Sporting KC so far as an injury replacement, and I expect Peter Vermes to ride the hot hand and start Peterson over Convey, even though Convey is back from injury.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic
Kamara, Zusi, Thomas
Bunbury, Sapong, Peterson.
Since the game is at LSP, I expect a 2-0 victory for Sporting KC.