The Houston Dynamo fought hard for their 1-1 draw with D.C. United at RFK Stadium in a game that was played with playoff pace. The Dynamo now come home to face our Eastern Conference rival Sporting Kansas City who have made the move to the Western Conference with the Dynamo with Orlando City SC and New York City FC joining the league. In our preview of the game we discussed the strengths and keys to the matchup, but we wanted SKC's perspective so we asked Ben Gartland of the Blue Testament to discuss his side and how he thinks the game will go.
Dynamo Theory: Dynamo GM Matt Jordan recently said of the Dynamo's play that the results have been encouraging, but not satisfying. As SKC boasts the same 2-2-3 record as Houston, what are some of your thoughts on their start to the season?
The Blue Testament: There's been times where Sporting Kansas City have been decent and times where they've been uninspired. The biggest thing that I've seen this season is that Dom Dwyer has been isolated up top and that the wings have not been able to send in service well, as well as the midfield not being able to create much through the middle. In previous years, the defense has been the saving grace but now, with a hurt Ike Opara and inconsistent play on the wings, the back line hasn't been the best and hasn't been able to completely shut down opponents like it had in the past.
Overall this team isn't bad, I'd say they're about average. After a few seasons of being above average it's an adjustment (we've been very spoiled since the rebrand) and average play is what I've seen so far this season.
DT: SKC is a very skilled team that Houston may have a hard time matching up with. How can Houston try to break down SKC's defense and score some goals and how badly is SKC missing Ike Opara?
BT: Ike Opara has been Sporting Kansas City's best player in 2015 and losing him is a huge loss. Not only does Sporting KC lose a solid defender in the middle, they've lost their biggest aerial threat on set pieces. This team has already had trouble scoring so losing him is going to be big.
The best way to attack Sporting KC's defense is going to be on the wings. Jalil Anibaba is likely going to be the starting right back, who has been very inconsequential this season. Serviceable, yes, but also able to be taken advantage of down the flank. Left back is either going to be a hobbled Marcel de Jong or an even more hobbled Seth Sinovic. Those two positions are the biggest defensive weakness so if Houston can take advantage of that there will be many chances for them.
DT: We can all agree that moving the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City to the Western Conference was someone's idea of a joke in order to make the West all the more packed with quality clubs. Since the league went along with it anyways and that joke is now a reality, what are the expectations around the SKC camp about how far this team can go in the crowded West?
BT: Especially this year, the expectation is to seemingly test our feet in the water with a brand new conference and a very new team. It's been hard to say what Sporting KC needs to do this season but the expectation always has been to make the playoffs. With six out of ten teams making the playoffs, this should be no problem but with the West as crowded as it is, Sporting may end up on the way out.
In my opinion, Sporting needs to stay consistent throughout the season, get into the playoffs and we'll see where we go from there. The playoffs should be an expectation, a top-three or better finish in the West would be the dream.
Projected Lineup: Marin; Anibaba, Ellis, Besler, de Jong; Carrasco, Feilhaber, Espinoza; Nemeth, Dwyer, Zusi
Predicted Score: 1-1 draw.
For my answers to Ben's questions head over to The Blue Testament to check them out!