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Revolution vs. Sporting KC 2014: Know Thy Enemy Part Deux

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The Revolution will face off against Sporting KC tonight in Foxboro. What can be expected from last season's MLS champs?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

TBM: Last time these two clubs met, the Revs were a team on a poor run, but poised to break out into a serious unbeaten streak. Thinking back to that night, why do you think the Revs were able to have success despite their lack thereof previously, and has Sporting adjusted sufficiently to prevent that?

BG: I'm not going to blame the defensive collapse in that match on Aurelien Collin getting sent off but I cannot deny that the ejection played a factor considering both of the goals came in stoppage time, after the red card. I think it allowed the Revs more space to finish the chances they had been getting all game because, like you said, the Revs were poised to break out into a serious, unbeaten streak and the offense was clicking well. I think the Revs were able to have success in that game because they were able to hold Sporting's attack while also capitalizing on the chances they got towards the end of the second half. As for adjusting, I can't say that Sporting has been able to due to their roster turbulence. In that match, they had Chance Myers uninjured, Uri Rosell not transferred, and the defense clicking well. Now, they are missing a significant presence in the defensive midfield as they wait for Jorge Claros to adjust, they have a hole at right back as Igor Juliao attempts to get better on the job and the defense as a whole, particularly Aurelien Collin, has been playing uncharacteristically bad. It's a good time to be playing against Sporting's back line right now.

TBM: Benny Feilhaber is out for this match. How will SKC account for his absence?

BG: Graham Zusi will likely slide back to the central attacking midfield role, which he is proficient at. I personally think he's better on the wing, so he might be a bit limited in the midfield but Sporting shouldn't lose too much creativity coming out of the midfield. The big thing is that Sporting usually has three excellent offensive threats with Feilhaber in the CAM role, Graham Zusi on the right wing and Dom Dwyer at center forward, but tonight they'll be missing two of those players. So while Sporting will have creativity in the midfield, they'll miss Zusi's presence on the wing. It'll likely be Toni Dovale and Soony Saad on the wings, which isn't a bad combination by any means but not having Feilhaber creates the shift I mentioned above, which leads to a less potent attack.

TBM: The last two games Sporting played have resulted in uncharacteristic losses where opponents have posted 3 goals each. Kansas City is normally a benchmark for defense in MLS. What happened in those two matches? Why did the floodgates open? Is that a danger here?

BG: The constant in both of those matches is that the goals all came in rapid succession and most of them were due to extremely poor defending. This includes failing to clear balls, losing marks and their offside traps getting beaten more than once. The back line as a whole looked lost in those past two matches and there really isn't one reason I can point to that would explain why they performed so bad in those matches. For this match, a lot of it will depend on which team shows up. The back line will need to be able to work their offside traps, they'll need to not give up as many counters and they will need to be able to clear the ball. This back line has shown the ability to go multiple games without giving up a shot on goal, and a lot of that is pressuring forwards into giving up the ball on a bad pass and not allowing them any space to get shots off. Lately, Sporting has been allowing too much space and if they continue to allow Bunbury, Nguyen and Fagundez space then it's going to be another long night for Sporting KC.

TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revolution fans should watch out for in this match.

BG: I'm going to go with Jorge Claros, who is Sporting KC's recently signed defensive midfielder. Claros is a Honduran international who played in the World Cup before joining Sporting KC and is now in the process of adjusting to Sporting KC's midfield. Claros is very tenacious and physical, something Sporting KC has really missed since Rosell transferred to CP Sporting. While he hasn't exactly been a standout in his brief time in Kansas City, he's a decent midfielder and has the potential to really be a force once he adjusts like Feilhaber last year and Rosell in 2012. For this match, it's likely he'll be paired with Lawrence Olum in the midfield. Having another defensive midfielder with him will allow him to roam around the midfield more and go box-to-box instead of just staying back. He could be dangerous if allowed too much space.

TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.

BG: Kempin; Juliao, Ellis, Besler, Sinovic; Claros, Olum, Zusi; Dovale, Bieler, Saad.

Scoreline: 2-1 Revs.