1) Graham Zusi. With Houston Dynamo left back Corey Ashe suspended for yellow card accumulation in the playoffs, how do you think Peter Vermes will gameplan an attempt to exploit whomever is slotted to play there for the Dynamo?
I think that Vermes is going to try and hammer the ball down the throats of the Dynamo back line and will most likely put Soony Saad on the wing. Saad is one of the more skilled wingers that Sporting has and will likely cause trouble for the Dynamo if Ashe isn’t back there. He also didn’t come in to the game until late on Wednesday, meaning he’s going to be rested enough to start in the first leg.
I can see Vermes telling Saad to try and force his way into the box and to try and take advantage of the missing Ashe to get some goals instead of the typical "Cross, cross and more crosses" approach that Sporting has taken in recent games. As we saw last year, first leg goals can be very critical in the series and I hope that Vermes doesn’t go into BBVA Stadium looking for a draw.
2) Teal Bunbury, Seth Sinovic, Aurellien Collin, Chance Myers. All four of these players sit on a yellow card, meaning an additional yellow on Saturday will result in their suspension from the second leg in Kansas City. Do you feel the yellow card accumulation threat might alter how any of the four play?
Not necessarily in Bunbury’s case since it’s up in the air whether he’ll play at all but for the other three I think it will certainly be in the back of their minds. That’s 3/4 of our back line you’re talking about and to lose any of them for the second leg could be a difference maker. I think that Collin will play a little less tense since he has a capable backup in Ike Opara behind him and it’s simply not his style to relax.
I don’t think they’ll play poorly because of it but I think they’ll take less risks and be less physical. The good news is neither Rosell or Besler has a yellow so they can provide physicality when needed.
3) 210'. It was only fitting both teams would see their second legs of the Eastern Conference Championship Semifinals go into extra time. With the Houston Dynamo having played 6 matches in 18 days, which will actually be 7 matches in 21 days, do you think Peter Vermes changes any of his traditional gameplan to try to exploit weary legs?
I think Vermes is going to go with his normal game plan of pressuring the ball into the Dynamo half and taking a million shots. It’s going to be difficult for both teams but Sporting has some good depth in spots that could step in and perform well. For instance, if Peterson Joseph is recovered from his mystery ailment in time, I could see him starting for a bit to give the other midfielders a break. Same with a Teal Bunbury or Jacob Peterson up top to start. Vermes is going to rely on fresh-legged speed to try and force a goal out of the Dynamo.
(4-3-3) Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Rosell, Nagamura, Zusi, Peterson, Bieler, Saad
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