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MatchDay 1: Seattle vs. Sporting KC

03/07/2014 12:10 PM

03/07/2014 12:38 PM

Last year ended on a down note for the Seattle Sounders. After breaking the bank (and, with a little help from the league, a few squishy MLS player-acquisition rules) to bring in Clint Dempsey, the Sounders had visions of an MLS Cup filled with neon green confetti. Portland spoiled it for them with a 5-3 aggregate win in the playoffs.

Which led this season to a massive overhaul for Seattle. They unloaded 14 players — including both starting center backs, the regular goalkeeper, designated player Mauro Rosales and Eddie Johnson. In their place are a bunch of well-traveled and experienced MLS regulars. Chad Marshall, a former MLS Defender of the Year, was acquired in a trade with the Columbus Crew. The team also imported forward Kenny Cooper from Dallas, defender Jalil Anibaba from Chicago and goalkeeper Stefan Frei from Toronto. On top of that, Seattle got former Fire midfielder Marco Pappa, who had been playing in Holland, by moving up in the allocation order.

That's a lot of players to integrate in one offseason.

Compare that to Sporting Kansas City returning 10 of 11 starters from the MLS Cup final (and five more who sat on the bench in that game). The only major losses for KC? Jimmy Nielsen and, to a lesser extent, Teal Bunbury.

The stout league-leading defense? Back. Leading scorer Claudio Bieler? Back and "Sporting" fit. Midfielder Oriol Rosell? Back. Creative engines Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber? Yeah, also back.

In other words, Kansas City should still be quite good. And they will have a big edge in the cohesion department.

Broadcast

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network. No local radio.

Tactical Preview

1. Claudio Bieler or Dom Dwyer vs. Chad Marshall/Jalil Anibaba

Marshall and Anibaba have only had the preseason to get acquainted. While Marshall has been one of the better defenders in the league, he's not known for his pace. He's an aerial monster and organizer. Anibaba, much faster and more athletic, is converting to center back after playing mostly right back for the Fire. Which gives Vermes a few options at central forward. Does he go with designated player Bieler, who can use his intelligent movement and positional sense to drag the still-forming duo out of position? Or does he go with "bull-in-a-china-shop" Dwyer to use his pace and tenacity to put Marshall on his back foot?

What Bieler can do with space.

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