The third game of the New England Revolution season (week four in MLS) is against Sporting Kansas City, and it's the home opener at Gillette Stadium. The Revs really didn't land a favorable match-up here, either; they're 13-22-10 all-time against the Kansas City club, and the last Revolution player to score against KC was Rajko Lekic in 2011.
Today's Q&A is with Andy Edwards of The Daily Wiz, SB Nation's Sporting Kansas City blog.
TBM: Let's start with the obvious: no Zusi, no Besler. That's two of your best players gone for this weekend's match. How do you think Sporting will cope with their absence, and what sort of an effect on the game will it have?
AE: In my opinion, the loss of Zusi will be the bigger for Sporting on Saturday. Lawrence Olum showed at times in 2012 he's a very serviceable backup centerback for a game or two, here and there. The backline has been shaky to start the season anyway, so that's not too troubling.
Zusi being gone will definitely change the way Sporting look to attack, but I don't think that will be a bad thing necessarily. I've argued a bit that Sporting should look to attack more directly (i.e. play the ball to CJ Sapong's head and flick on for Claudio Bieler and Benny Feilhaber), so this will actually necessitate that a bit. As well as playing on the road, Sapong will offer a bit more in terms of counter attacking speed and a reliable target man. Where the loss of Zusi could hurt Sporting is late in game, with a lead, looking to possess the ball and kill the game off.
TBM: Seth Sinovic is an old friend of ours, and we like to check up on him from time to time. We also like to snivel and cry when we think about how he could have been locking up OUR left flank for years to come the way he's been doing in the Heartland. Just how valuable is he to SKC, and what about him makes him so good for you guys?
AE: As you'll probably know, he's not flashy. He's not going to make you say, "Wow, who is that guy," nor is he going to win you many games from the leftback position. But, what he does do is, he simply doesn't make mistakes. And where you're a defender, that's the greatest gift you can give to your head coach and team.
He's surprisingly quick as well, which plays into the 4-3-3 and allows him to support along the left wing. He's a good crosser of the ball, and he's a guy that always has a chip on his shoulder, which means he's always giving that extra 10 percent to show his opponent up. There's probably 15 teams in MLS that would take him as their starting leftback for the next 3-5 years.
TBM: Four points from three games may not have been the dream start you guys were looking for out of KC, but it could certainly be worse. What's been the worst, or most annoying, feature you've seen from SKC during these last three games that might be holding them back?
AE: Throw the game against Chicago out the window (0-0 draw, 73 percent possession, more passes completed than the home opener last year when the Revs went down a man for 65 minutes, few shots, etc.; same old Sporting story), and the most frustrating thing in a couple of pretty good performances was conceding early goals to the Union and TFC.
Obviously the two goals shipped in Toronto were pretty big blunders by the leading defending team last season, and made it very difficult to recover; Sporting won 3-1 at Philly, lost 2-1 at Toronto. It'll be important to starting that "gelling" process over again if Chance Myers can return from a quad injury that kept him out of last week's game.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revolution fans should watch out for in this match.
AE: It'll sound like a cliche since it's against the Revs, but Benny Feilhaber will be key on Saturday in the absence of Zusi. All the attack will flow through Feilhaber, and if he's up for the game against his former team, he could have the kind of breakout performance he needs to settle into his new squad.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
AE: Nielsen - Jerome, Collin, Olum, Sinovic - Rosell, Nagamura, Feilhaber - Sapong, Bieler Convey.
1-0 Sporting Kansas City.