Greetings from fabulous Las Vegas!
i am on vacation visiting my cousins and partying with fellow members of the Winning Ugly crew, so I'm not going to bother with any kind of insight of my own for tomorrow night's game. Never fear, however; I will be hosting a game thread tomorrow.
TBM: KC has sandwiched a gritty 1-0 win in Open Cup qualifying on the 6th with a disappointing 3-3 draw in Vancouver and an ugly 1-0 loss to Columbus in Ohio this past weekend. It seems like Sporting's form is inconsistent - sometimes they come out guns ablaze and flex their offensive muscles, and sometimes they appear to do the dirty work and put in a workmanlike defensive performance, but rarely do the two seem to occur at the same time. Do you think the extended road trip this team has been forced to go on to open the season is taking its toll on the squad?
TBM: Obviously, missing Omar Bravo is a blow for the offense but the front three of Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara and rookie C.J. Sapong certainly doesn't lack in talent. Sapong in particular has looked to be a revelation - what can you tell us about his game and how well he seems to have adapted to the pace and skill of MLS?
AE: I think that certainly plays a part in it. Maybe coming into the season the team downplayed it a bit, thinking that it wouldn't be as difficult as many believed. I would say more than likely it's played a bit of a part in the recent struggles. As head coach Peter Vermes stated last week in his weekly press conference, the team loses two days of preparation every week due to travel getting back home and out of town for the upcoming game. That's a major hindrance when your opponent every week has that luxury of a full week of training.
Outside of that, it's really been a rough start for KC injury-wise, too. Last weekend's game against Columbus was the first time all season that Vermes was able to select the same starting unit at any level on the field, whether it be defense, midfield or forwards. Not one of those units started the same 4 or 3 players respectively in back to back games. That's terrible for continuity. Of the players that missed games due to injuries or international duty, Teal Bunbury, Omar Bravo, Kei Kamara and Michael Harrington are the big names that come to mind.
And to think, even missing the trio of Bunbury, Bravo and Kamara at different times, KC still scored 3, 2 and 3 goals in their first three games, respectively. They've been all over the map so far, with the defense playing well when the offense falters (once) and vice versa (every other game) this season.
AE: The thing that has helped Sapong the most this year is the system in which he plays. I spoke to him on draft day and he immediately raved about the 4-3-3 that KC plays, and how he fits into that formation.
He's a guy that can play in any of the three forward spots with varying levels of success. He's big and strong - suiting him well to play in the center - very quick and rangy - suiting him well to play either wide left or right - and possesses a powerful, quick shot - allowing him to fire a rocket from anywhere at anytime. In that sense, his game translates very well to the Sporting KC stlye of play.
Where he has struggled a bit, as many rookies do, is every now and then he will disappear and you'll forget he's even on the field. Case in point: the game at Columbus this past weekend. When I recorded my postgame podcast immediately following the game, I honestly didn't remember seeing him on the field more than two or three times all game. Part of that can be credited to Columbus's well-executed gameplan, but the best players always find a way to show up and make an impact no matter the opposing gameplan. He's not there yet, but he could really be a handful one day - maybe a couple years from now. It's crazy to think that people were saying he was a waste of a draft pick at number 10 in January.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for in this match.
AE: Really, midfielder Milos Stojcev is the key to the Sporting KC attack. He's a European attacking midfielder that Vermes has entrusted his entire attack to thus far in 2011. When he has played well, KC has scored goals in bunches. When he has had a bit of a rough game, they haven't been nearly as potent.
I expect things to go much the same the rest of the year, barring an acquisition of a player that can fill his role later in the season. When watching the game on Saturday, just look for number 88; he'll be the one (attempting to) pull all the strings for the Sporting attack.
TBM: Which Revolution player do you think Sporting KC fears most on the pitch?
AE: Obviously Shalrie Joseph is a guy that Sporting KC, and most MLS teams, have to gameplan for coming into any matchup with New England. He's big, strong and always seems to come up with the goals.
The worrisome thing right now for KC is that I'm not sure they have a player on their roster that can physically matchup with Joseph and be able to outplay and out-tough him for 90 minutes. I think Birahim Diop is going to get a shot to do so, but the thought of that kind of scares me.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a score prediction.
I'll say the game is a pretty fun and wide-open game that sees a gew goals scored. Both teams are struggling of late and need a positive result. I've got Sporting KC winning this one, 3-1.