The Houston Dynamo are coming off a break, but recently had US Open Cup action in which they bested Minnesota United FC 1-0 at home. Now the Dynamo are back on the road where they’ll face Sporting Kansas City who sit at the top of the Western Conference.
In our preview of the match we talked about both clubs and US Open Cup from this past Monday, but we wanted to know more about our opponent so we spoke with Cody Bradley at the Blue Testament to learn more about SKC.
Dynamo Theory: Last season a big struggle for Sporting Kansas City had been getting wins on the road. Already SKC has more away wins than they did in the 2017 season. What’s helped them turn around their form away from Children’s Mercy Park?
The Blue Testament: Honestly, this team is just way better than last season. SKC was pretty one dimensional and lacked an ability to finish. But in the off-season Peter Vermes brought in talent all over the pitch and this team now has versatility, creativity and multiple paths to goal. With technical players all over the field, (including outside backs who are converted midfielders/attackers) Sporting Kansas City is able to control possession and dictate the way a match is played.
The organization and system from Vermes also deserves credit. If you do not know your role inside and out, and if you are not able to stay focused for every second of the 90+ then you will simply not get on the field.
DT: Tied with FC Dallas, SKC has the best defense in terms of goals allowed and have one of the best offenses in the league in goals finished. How have they been so dominant on both sides of the ball?
TBT: As for the defense, having the Goalkeeper of the Year goes a long ways. They give up chances like any other team, but Tim Melia has a knack for bailing them out. As I mentioned this team is very technical all over the field. They’re good on defense because the other team doesn’t get the ball very much. And don’t forget that Ike Opara, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler (3/4ths of the backline) have played together basically their whole careers. In front of them stands one of the best midfielders in MLS, Ilie Sanchez. The work he does to win possession, break up plays and relieve pressure is just incredible.
The attacking end has been a lot of fun to watch. Felipe Gutierrez has been out but chipped in five goals in a few games at the beginning of the season. Without him, wingers Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi have stepped up to make this offense tick. Russell is gives defenses fits and runs directly at them every chance he gets. He causes problems, he wins corner kicks, and creates opportunity. Salloi has a deadly, quick shot that is really tough to defend. The problem for teams is that they are scoring by committee. It is too difficult to focus on shutting down one player as it opens things up for someone else.
DT: Last week SKC bested Dallas in the US Open Cup. Peter Vermes takes his US Open Cups pretty seriously, so what kind of adjustments might he make if Vermes went with a full strength side?
TBT: The Dallas match was last Saturday, so it will be a normal week and we are expecting Vermes to put out his best lineup. That is a question however, as the team is dealing with several injuries at the moment. Matt Besler is working his way back from injury so we might see the young Argentinian, Emiliano Amor. Another question is at left-back. 18-year-old Jaylin Lindsey has been impressing, but Vermes could opt for the veteran and defensive acumen of Seth Sinovic.
DT Bonus World Cup Question: What World Cup squad does SKC most resemble?
TBT: That’s tough. I’ll go with Croatia. SKC has good players, and a couple well known names. But they don’t just rely on expensive players’ pure brilliance to lift them. They are well coached, organized and have a game plan. Like Croatia, Sporting will never be talked about the same way as LA (Brazil) and New York (Germany), but they can beat them at anytime. Nobody WANTS to play Croatia. Also, awesome kits.
Projected Lineup: Melia, Zusi, Opara, Amor, Sinovic, Ilie, Espinoza, Croizet, Salloi, Shelton, Russell
Predicted Outcome: 3-2
For my answers to Cody’s excellent questions, please check them out at the Blue Testament!