Through five games, Sporting Kansas City had been a study in inconsistency. The offense clicked for 45 minutes against the Philadelphia Union then went dormant. The defense started rocky but then posted three-consecutive clean sheets.
The Kansas City Star
Then came last Saturday when it all finally clicked into place. The Montreal Impact never really sniffed the net and the offense coulda/shoulda built a more impressive scoreline than 2-0 (though, sorry, Aurelien Collin was never in an onside position for his "goal").
With D.C. United coming to town tonight -- the first back-to-back homestand for KC this year -- the question presents itself: Can SKC do it again?
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and, if you can't make it out, KSMO-TV has the broadcast with Callum Williams and Jake Yadrich.
Let's get our previewing on.
1. So, was that the real Sporting Kansas City last weekend?
Or was that merely a mirage created by a team that refused to bunker and allowed a marauding Kansas City too much open space to operate in?
In other words -- as James Starritt, Laura Byrnne and I discussed on this week's super scintillating spectacular Kick the Ball podcast -- can Sporting find a way to play like they did against Montreal when a team plays compact and behind the ball?
The Impact didn't sit back and restrict Sporting; they opened up space and tried to really play against KC. That's not the M.O. of the majority of MLS teams who come to town. Most try to emulate the Houston Dynamo game plan.
Will D.C. United?
The news came out early on Thursday that United will be without Dwayne De Rosario. They were already going to be without Nick DeLeon. Those two gentlemen make up the bulk of D.C.'s dangerous midfield. With Chris Pontius still recovering from injuries (though he's the primary threat even with the healthy "De" midfielders) and newcomer Rafael settling in, it's likely that D.C. won't be too adventurous.
Not to mention, United haven't exactly set the world on fire to start the season. Through four games, they've managed only two goals and have as many shots (31) as Kei Kamara would've had by himself through four games (you know, if Kei weren't with Norwich).
All signs point to a pretty good defense (anchored by the often spectacular shot-stopper Bill Hamid) and a depleted attack playing true counter-attack soccer.
For Kansas City, the main answer for a bunkering defense could be Benny Feilhaber. He was sensational against the Impact. If he can find that same rhythm, SKC should do well.
2. Will one of the team's get win No. 19?
Interesting stat: In the long history of these two original MLS franchises, Kansas City and D.C. United have both won 18 times. (They've also drawn 9 times.)
However, D.C. United hasn't won a game in Kansas City since 2007 and never at Sporting Park. Furthermore, Kansas City is riding a four-game winning streak in the series.
It's only the 12th MLS match for Villarreal, who calls a fairly tight game. He's whistled an average of 24 fouls per match, awarded 6 red cards and four penalties.
OUT: Teal Bunbury (left knee sprain), Jacob Peterson (right shoulder sprain); QUESTIONABLE: C.J. Sapong (lumbar spine strain)
OUT: Nick DeLeon (hamstring strain), Lewis Neal (pubic stress reaction), John Thorrington (MCL strain), Dwayne De Rosario (adductor strain)
It's the sixth game of the season, which means Aurelien Collin is due for a yellow-card warning. After two more, the Frenchman (along with Seth Sinovic) will earn an automatic one-game suspension.
Cool Stat, Bro
Against Montreal, Kansas City's midfield (Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber, Oriol Rosell and Peterson Joseph) completed an astonishing 123 of 150 passes. It makes it pretty easy to create chances when you're not wasting possession in the middle of the park.
Pretty phenomenal weather ahead. A high of 68 today and a low of just 52.
Best Lineup Guess
From the if-it's-not-broke-and-everyone's-healthy school of thought: Peter Vermes rides the same XI from last week.
GK: Jimmy Nielsen-c; DEF: Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; MID: Oriol Rosell, Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber; FWD: C.J. Sapong, Claudio Bieler, Graham Zusi
BENCH: Eric Kronberg; Mechack Jerome, Ike Opara, Lawrence Olum; Peterson Joseph; Bobby Convey, Soony Saad
Kansas City 1, D.C. United 0
I think this one has a bit of that Chicago Ugly in it, with United sitting behind the ball and restricting Kansas City to whipping in crosses from the wings with no consistency to attack. However, a Zusi set piece (my guess: Collin nodding home a corner) will give this game it's only spark. (Doesn't it just seem like it's time for a Collin header?)
MatchDay Hype Song
This weekend is the Ink Middle of the Map Fest. It's three days worth of fantastic music. You can catch some tonight after the game (pro tip: The Hillary Watts Riot are playing The Westport Coffee House at 11 p.m.) if you're in the mood.
But the good stuff (in my opinion) comes on Saturday.
During the day, you can catch Cherokee.Rock.Rifle and Clairaudients (both highly recommended) at the Riot Room Patio from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. Then you can head over to the Outdoor Stage to catch the awesome bill of Radkey, Roman Numerals, Beautiful Bodies and the Divine Fits that evening.
You really can't go wrong with any of the bands I've just listed.
However, I'm going to be at another venue on Saturday night checking out a band I've wanted to see for a while now: Dead Ven. They're a "street folk" anthemic punk band featuring a mandolin player. So, yes, they're quite interesting. Today's song is "Hammer Falls." Check it out.