About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC comes into this match rejuvenated with the return of several players. First and foremost are US National Teamers Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. While it's unlikely they'll play today, their return to the roster puts less pressure on the reserves and adds some strength back into the lineup. Benny Feilhaber will also be returning from his shoulder injury soon, as will Antonio Dovale from his two-game red card suspension. Sporting KC have won two in a row after breaking a five-game winless streak and they will play their first home MLS match since May 27th.
The Fire have shown so far this year that they are a team that is remarkably average. Through 15 games, they have 15 points, good for one point per game. They already have nine ties on the year and could challenge their own record from 2011 where they had 16 at the end of the season. They have a strong front line lead by reigning MVP Mike Magee and Rookie of the Year candidate Harry Shipp. They are weaker on the back line so their games tend to be high scoring. They also are coming into this game fairly cold, having not won a game since their win over Sporting KC in May. The Fire will be missing a key part of their offense in Quincy Amarikwa, who is on yellow-card accumulation suspension.
Who to Watch
Sporting Kansas City- Kevin Ellis
Kevin Ellis has been playing extremely well since being called up in May. He's had to pinch in at centerback during the great defender crisis of 2014 and has really stepped up as of late. With Mike Magee and Alex at the top of the Chicago attack, they're going to be formidable down the middle. Kevin Ellis' performance will be vital in keeping Magee from getting behind the defense and playing a sweeper role so that Collin can attack the attack. All has to do is keep doing what he's been doing and he'll be good for this game.
Chicago Fire- Harry Shipp
Shipp has burst onto the scene in his debut season, scoring six goals and notching four assists in 14 matches. His highlight came with a hat trick performance against the New York Red Bulls a couple of months ago, and he has remained a dangerous presence in the Chicago attack ever since. It's unclear whether he'll play as a wing with Alex up top alongside Magee or whether he'll move next to Magee. Regardless, his presence on the pitch will provide some action for the Sporting KC back line.
Why They'll Win
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City has proven that, even with a makeshift back line and shaky midfield, they can still hold strong and get points. They were able to do such that against Portland, holding the strong Timber's attack scoreless last Friday night. Chicago has a strong front line, but if Sporting KC can hold strong against that as they did last week, their high-pressure attack should be able to push the game into Chicago's half and result in a Sporting-controlled match. They were able to control the possession down a man last match against the Fire. A better lineup and home crowd this time should be enough to put them over the top.
Chicago will try and do to Sporting KC what they did to Toronto, which was control the game from a possession standpoint. Their 4-4-2 puts an extra man in the midfield, compared to Sporting KC's 4-3-3. While Sporting KC tries to push the game forward in a high-pressure system, Chicago is much calmer and waits for the opportunity to get the ball from the midfield to the forwards. Chicago was able to hold a five-man midfield in the match earlier this year, look for them to try and control the game in a similar fashion.
Sporting Kansas City: Kronberg; Juliao, Collin, Ellis, Sinovic; Olum, Nagamura, Saad; Zizzo, Dywer, Peterson.
Chicago Fire: Johnson, Cochran, Sourmare, Ianni, Palmer, Ward, Larentowicz, Ritter, Shipp, Alex, Magee.