About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
This hasn't been the best week for Sporting Kansas City. First, they suffer their first home loss of the season to a lackluster Philadelphia Union squad. Then, they lose Matt Besler and Graham Zusi to the US Men's National Team, Lawrence Olum to Kenya, and Aurelien Collin to injury. They turn to their fifth string centerback in Erik Palmer-Brown, who is two years younger than the college freshman writing this preview. Palmer-Brown has been listed as questionable with sesamoiditis but was a full-participant in practice this week. He'll probably be partnered with Uri Rosell, who played centerback in the Barcelona system, although he is listed as questionable as well. We're one more injury away from Vermes himself suiting up as a Ryan Giggs type player-manager.
The Fire have looked really good this season while also being one of the most frustrating teams for the Fire fans. They haven't been shutout this season and are near the top of the league in goals, but they also had not won a match until this past weekend where they won a 5-4 thriller over New York. Through nine matches, they sit in ninth in the east but have only lost twice. They are a much tougher team than their point total indicates, lead by a formidable attack with Mike Magee at the top. Their defense is leaky, however, and for all the goals they score there will always be a chance to earn one back.
Who to Watch
Sporting Kansas City- Erik Palmer-Brown
This is the moment we've anticipated for a long time. The defending phenom was signed as a 16-year-old as part of the future. Through his involvement in the US U-17 squad and the rumors of a bid from Italian powerhouse Juventus, a lot has been made about this center back prodigy. Yet, he has not played one minute for Sporting Kansas City in any competition thus far. Now, he will be called upon to be the emergency starter at centerback against one of the better offenses in the league. Talk about your baptism by Fire.
Chicago Fire- Harrison Shipp
Speaking of young players, Harrison Shipp has already made quite the impact in his debut season with the Fire. He has three goals on the year, all coming last week against New York, and four assists. He has been a big point in driving the Fire offense this year. One of the worries about Magee going to the Fire last year was he had no one to get the ball to him and he still managed to score 21 goals. Now, with people like Shipp to get him the ball, the Fire are more dangerous on offense, a reason to try and keep Shipp in check.
Why They Will Win
Sporting Kansas City
While their attack is strong, the Fire's defense is very porous and has allowed 18 goals in nine games. Sporting Kansas City is going to be struggling on the defensive end but their offense should still be potent. They still have Benny Feilhaber manning the midfield, they still have the always dangerous Dom Dwyer at center forward and Sal Zizzo should start as well. They'll miss Graham Zusi but there are still enough weapons to allow Sporting KC to score some goals. As long as they keep pushing forward and they don't allow the Fire to test the back line, they should come away with a victory.
One of the ways Sporting KC is going to win is by having their pressure system working. That is going to be difficult with a questionable Rosell possibly playing centerback instead of his normal role in the midfield. Sporting KC won't be able to control possession as well and they won't be able to start attacks from the defensive half as well, which the Fire will take advantage of. By keeping the Sporting KC attack subdued, they allow themselves to work that offense they have been using to gain results all year.
Sporting KC: Kronberg © - Sinovic, Palmer-Brown, Rosell, Myers, Nagamura, Martinez, Feilhaber, Peterson, Dwyer, Zizzo.
Chicago Fire (From Sean Spence): Sean Johnson; Greg Cochrane, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Lovel Palmer; Harrison Shipp, Jeff Larentowicz ©, Benji Joya, Patrick Nyarko; Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa.
Sporting Kansas City 2-2 Chicago Fire
It's going to be a very offense-happy game with lots of near-misses and good attacking displays/horrible defensive displays. Should be a fun one.