While FC Dallas has had a full week to rest and train before our next set of three games in eight days, Sporting Kansas City had a midweek match against Club Leon in the Leagues Cup that Peter Vermes sacrificed to better rest his squad in preparation for the rematch against Dallas. He did, however, gain some match experience for the seven homegrowns who featured and a week of rest for several players who will likely feature in SKC’s own stretch of three games in eight days.
As Vermes suggested, the match congestion forced the choice on him. Sporting prioritized the upcoming matches, the Supporters’ Shield, and their place atop the Western Conference over Leon and the Leagues Cup. Overall, SKC enters the match with a record of 10W-4D-4L in MLS play. Good for 34 points and 1st place in the Western Conference.
When last we spoke of SKC, they entered the fray with four wins and a draw in their last five. This time they enter with two wins, two losses, and a draw. Given the heavy squad rotation, the match against Leon is dismissible. However, Vermes had also previously rotated against Colorado - which makes me wonder when he decided to start his homegrowns against Leon... and why?
In the match against Colorado, the Rapids finished with 2.8 xG in comparison to .3 xG for SKC according to MLS’ stats. Furthermore, Sporting had zero successful crosses against Colorado. Sporting only took a point in the contest because Tim Melia was a beast, which may further suggest that Vermes rotated even more against Leon because he saw exactly how gassed his players were.
In the previous match against LAFC, the Black and Gold similarly had a 2.8 to 1.7 edge in expected goals. However, they lost. Badly. In that match, Kansas City found a mark on 30% of their crosses. Three of the four goals were crosses (the other was a train wreck).
Keys to the Match:
1) Matt Hedges – for better or worse, Bressan picked up a yellow card in the last match and will miss this feature for accumulation, which means Hedges should be back in the starting lineup. The question is – is he match fit and ready to go 90 minutes? We all saw how many crosses SKC played into the far post in the last go-round and those crosses are the key to their success. Hedges and Nkosi Tafari will need to be dominant in the air, and late runners in the box need to be tracked.
2) Looking back at our previous match, Sporting had the edge on Dallas in terms of expected goals (1.7 to 1.1) and shots (20 to 12). Where Dallas had an edge was in shots on target: 5 to 4. Melia is an outstanding keeper – but he doesn’t need to block shots that aren’t on target. The good looks are the result of the front four preventing opposing defenses from collapsing on a single player. Szabolcs Schon had some success against Graham Zusi before and I expect more this week – which should also prevent Zusi from chipping in his crosses.
3) How short is Vermes’ bench? Given Busio’s transfer to Venezia, injuries to Cam Duke and Khiry Shelton, and Vermes’ decision to field such an inexperienced roster in mid-week action, it feels safe to wonder about the wear on the veteran squad. If the heat and match congestion are wearing on the thirty-something legs of Russell, Zusi, Espinoza, and Sanchez, then a hot night in Texas may not bode well for the visitors.
That’s all I’ve got. Let me know what you think.
Lineup Prediction: 4-3-3
Daniel Salloi - Alan Pulido – Johnny Russell
Gadi Kinda – Ilie Sanchez – Remi Walter
Martins – Fontas – Isimat-Mirin - Graham Zusi
OUT: Felipe Hernandez (personal reasons)
QUESTIONABLE: Cam Duke (hamstring), Khiry Shelton (abdomen)