Match Preview: Sporting KC Look To Dethrone Defending Champions

Colorado were celebrating their 1-0 win over Columbus in their wild card matchup. Let's hope the outcome of tonight's match is a little bit different.(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Sporting Kansas City
vs. Colorado Rapids

October 30, 2011
Dick's Sporting Goods Park- Commerce City, Colorado
6:30PM CDT
TV- Fox Soccer 
Pregame Coverage

Okay, so maybe I was wrong. A few days ago I posted my MLS Playoff Power Rankings, and I had the Colorado Rapids all the way down in the tenth spot on the list. Needless to say, things didn't exactly go according to plan as far as my rankings were concerned. Not only did FC Dallas fall to the New York Red Bulls 2-0 (I had FC Dallas ranked fifth...oops!), but the Colorado Rapids took care of business at Dick's Sporting Good Park by defeating the Columbus Crew 1-0, and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinal against Sporting KC.*

*Don't you just love how the MLS playoff structure works? The New York Red Bulls are now in the Western Conference bracket, and the Rapids are now in the East. C'mon MLS, it's not that hard to get this right. Anyways, enough with the playoff structure; we all know it's seriously flawed. 

 

So, Sporting Kansas City travels to Colorado to take on the Rapids tonight in the first leg of a two match series with the defending MLS champions. Look, I'm not going to lie about the fact that I think Sporting KC are the better team here, but that doesn't mean that the Rapids aren't a worthy opponent, especially in a league like Major League Soccer, where it's extremely hard for teams to win on the road. 

It's going to be tough game tonight, as Sporting Kansas City will have to fight not only the Rapids, but also the chill of a late October night in Colorado, as well as the high altitude. The decreased air pressure will no doubt take it's affect on Sporting KC. Exactly how much? We won't know until we start seeing a bunch of slumped over Sporting KC players gasping for air, but it will be interesting to see how a team like Sporting KC, which thrives on a high intensity, up-tempo attack will fare under such conditions. 

I would have to imagine Sporting KC would be happy with a draw, although I'm not expecting head coach Peter Vermes to have the team doing their best Columbus Crew impression, and play all eleven Sporting KC players in a defensive shell. No, far from it. I'm sure Vermes will have his club gunning for the win, and I think that's the right approach in this situation.

I understand the logic of playing for a draw in a situation like the one Sporting KC find themselves in, but even for as good as Kansas City has been at home this season, I wouldn't be willing to put all my eggs in one basket, hoping to take care of business during the second match on Wednesday night. I say, take care of business tonight, get the win, and force Colorado to have to outplay you on your home field. I think that's what Vermes will attempt to have his team do. 

Surely, Colorado will miss at least two key players who are out due to injury; Conor Casey, Jaime Smith are out, and midfielder Pablo Mastroeni is listed as questionable.

If both Smith and Mastroeni miss this match, Sporting KC should hold a huge advantage in the midfield. 

 

Colorado Player to Watch

Omar Cummings- Yes, Cummings has had a pretty forgettable season, this after coming off a very good year in 2010 (14 goals, 3 assists). But we saw just what kind of damage Cummings can do when he scored in the first half of Colorado's win over Columbus earlier this week. Sporting KC's defense can't allow Cummings to have a repeat performance.


Prediction- Sporting KC 1, Colorado 1

I know Vermes and company will be going for the win, but I think the Rapids will be tough a tough team at home. For as much as I may have given Colorado flack this season, they still are the defending champs, and I imagine they won't go down without putting up a fight. 

Interesting Stat of the Day

Sporting Kansas City forward Kei Kamara has only converted 9% of his total number of shots this season. Here's to hoping that changes tonight. 

 

Injury Report

Colorado Rapids- OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); MF Jaime Smith (R knee ACL tear); DF Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF Pablo Mastroeni (concussion); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

Sporting Kansas City- OUT: DF Daniel Cryus (L foot fracture); MF Luke Sassano (R knee sprain); MF Peterson Joseph (R knee surgery); MF Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery)

Stats Galore

Last meeting: July 6, 2011Sporting KC 1, Colorado Rapids 1 (goals: Graham Zusi 1, Conor Casey 1)
Season series- 2 draws 

All-time meetings: 49

Sporting KC wins: 20 (82 goals)
Rapid wins: 17 (64 goals)
12 draws

At Colorado (25 meetings):
Rapids 14 wins (40 goals)
Sporting KC 4 wins (29 goals)
7 Draws

Individual Stats

Scoring leaders: Sporting KC- Omar Bravo, Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury (9 )- Colorado- Jeff Larentowicz (7)
Assist leaders: Sporting KC- Graham Zusi (7)- Colorado- Omar Cummings (6)
Saves: Sporting KC- Jimmy Nielsen (79) - Colorado- Matt Pickens (77)
Yellow cards: Sporting KC- Aurelien Collin (10) - Colorado- Drew Moor (8)
Shots: Sporting KC- Kei Kamara (91) - Colorado- Sanna Nyassi (61)
Shots on goal: Sporting KC- Kei Kamara (29) - Colorado- Sanna Nyassi (24)

Team Stats

Goals scored: Sporting KC (50) - Colorado (44)
Assits: Sporting KC (35) - Colorado (34)
Shots: Sporting KC (488) - Colorado (365)
Shots on goal: Sporting KC (159) - Colorado (138)
Fouls commited: Sporting KC (425) - Colorado (374)
Fouls suffered: Sporting KC (416) - Colorado (434)
Offsides: Sporting KC (71) - Colorado (83)
Corner kicks: Sporting KC (161) - Colorado (149)
Penalty kicks given: Sporting KC (4) - Colorado (3)
Penalty kicks awarded: Sporting KC (4) - Colorado (4)

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