Sporting Kansas City begin the final leg of their 2013 preseason preparations on Saturday afternoon when they take on Montreal Impact in their opening game of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic (2 p.m. CT) from Orlando, Fla. Sporting KC are already three games into their preseason schedule - 0-0 against New England Revolution, 1-1 against FC Tucson, and 1-0 against Portland Timbers - and have four games remaining before the MLS season opener on March 2.
The eight participating teams - Sporting KC, Montreal, Columbus Crew, Toronto FC, Philadelphia Union and D.C. United of Major League Soccer, Orlando City SC of USL PRO, and Tampa Bay Rowdies of NASL - will each play three group games over eight days, as well as their corresponding ranked team from the other group on February 23.
The Daily Wiz will once again have a live stream of Saturday's game embedded on the site, as well as an open thread for game chatter. Editor Andy Edwards will be available to field any and all questions regarding Saturday's game, and the upcoming season.
The goal for these preseason games is simple: gain fitness and match sharpness while coming through injury-free, something Sporting failed to do last Friday night against Portland. Also of great interest on Saturday will be the re-integration of midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler back into the squad after each player missed the first month of Sporting KC's preseason while in camp for the United States national team.
Besler and Zusi reunited with their club teammates on Thursday night, a day after the U.S.'s 2-1 defeat to Honduras in its first 2014 World Cup qualifier. Besler was named 2012 MLS Defender of the Year, and Zusi lead the league in assists with 15 in 2012, so each player will figure prominently into Sporting's successes in 2013. It is unclear whether the two American internationals will make their preseason debuts on Saturday, or be held out until the second game in Orlando on Wednesday.
Forward Claudio Bieler, signed as a Designated Player in the offseason, made his preseason debut in the game against Portland and should once again see 30 to 45 minutes of action on Saturday. How Bieler links up with the other attacking options - Benny Feilhaber, Bobby Convey, CJ Sapong among others - will be the key point to watch. Bieler's contributions in his debut were pretty listless, but more so for Sporting not having a great deal of possession during his 30-minute cameo.
The other big offseason acquisition - Feilhaber - is set to make his preseason debut and begin his on-field gelling with his new teammates. Acquired in a trade with New England Revolution in December, Feilhaber and Zusi will together form one of the most dynamic, creative midfield tandems in MLS once they've had proper time grow their chemistry together.
Stay tuned to this page for all updates on Saturday as the preseason grind enters the homestretch.