Sporting Kansas City has won three straight games and has not lost in over a month. The last team they lost to? Their opponent for this evening's matchup. Sporting is four points ahead of the Impact but the latter have two games in hand against Sporting KC. A win for Sporting would put them seven points clear of the once Eastern Conference favorites and would significantly improve their chances at some regular season silverware.
About the Teams
As stated above, Sporting KC is one of the hottest teams in MLS right now. They've won three straight, including a 2-1 win against the league leading Real Salt Lake on the road. They're riding a six-match unbeaten streak in which they've outscored their opponents 13-7. They've beaten Montreal once and lost to Montreal once, both matches at Sporting Park. This game will be a tough test for Sporting's defensive depth because they will be without Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin due to international duty and suspension respectively. It will be up to Lawrence Olum and Ike Opara to hold down the fort as Sporting tries to continue their winning ways.
Where Sporting is hot, the Impact have suddenly cooled down. The Impact haven't won a match in their past five tries and have dropped to second in the Eastern Conference standings. To borrow a quote from Sofiane Bonzaza over at Mount Royal Soccer, "The flip side of building a team with experience is that you get experienced legs." The players are starting to tire after such a hot start and teams are making adjustments. However this is still a very dangerous team who's fluidity burned Sporting back in June. They are certainly an attack to watch out for.
Player to Watch
Sporting KC- Lawrence Olum and Ike Opara
I know it only says "Player to watch" but both of these players will play an equally important part in this match. Without two of the best center backs in the league, Sporting will have to rely on their depth in Lawrence Olum and Ike Opara. I've been high on Opara this year and he played well last week against Real Salt Lake, but he's also been paired with either Collin or Besler the entire time. Olum has made some mistakes but is a reliable defender most of the time. These two will have to work together and hold down the back line if they want Sporting to have a chance in this one. The fate of the match will rest on their shoulders, I can almost guarantee it.
Montreal Impact- Sanna Nyassi
Montreal as a whole was a threat all night in the previous match between these two clubs but the speed and pressure of Sanna Nyassi was the pinnacle of the Impact's offense against Sporting KC. He was constantly providing pressure and chances from the wing and will be another big key to the Impact for this match. With Sporting's defense not at 100%, his constant pressure could make the difference for the Impact.
How they will Win
Sporting's midfield situation will force Peter Vermes to either put Zusi and Feilhaber together a la the Toronto match or he'll put in Peterson Joseph as he did last week. With Joseph's "meh" performance last week, it may be all attack from the midfield with Benny and Graham manning the middle of the pitch. In this case, they will have to duty of keeping the ball out of the defensive half and not allowing the Impact any opportunity to try and test Opara and Olum. As long as the midfield duo can control the ball in the attacking half, Sporting should have a decent chance in this game.
Montreal has to do the exact opposite as Sporting KC does. They have to keep the ball out of the hands (Feet?) of Zusi and Benny and control the game from the midfield. By doing this, they will force Sporting's midfield back and will do two things. First, they will not allow Zusi and Feilhaber to create any chances. Two, they will put the pressure on Uri Rosell and the Sporting back line. If the Impact can put some pressure on the midfield and, subsequently, the back line then they will have a great chance in this game.
Sporting KC: Nielsen, Sinovic, Olum, Opara, Myers, Rosell, Zusi, Feilhaber, Saad, Bieler, Kamara
Montreal Impact: Perkins, Camara, Nesta, Ferrari, Brovsky, Mapp,Arnaud, Bernier, Martins, Di Vaio, Paponi
Sporting Kansas City 2-2 Montreal Impact
Sporting has been playing too well as of late to lose to a faltering Impact side, but the Impact can still make a good offensive run when the other team is missing both starting center backs.