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Match Preview: Sporting Kansas City vs. New England Revolution

A diluted Sporting KC attack heads to New England on the first of a three-game road swing.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

About the Teams

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting will be missing two of their offensive targets in Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer for this match due to yellow card accumulation, which will significantly alter their attacking strategy. More bad news for the away side in this match is that they are coming off of two straight losses in which they were outscored 6-1 overall at home. We'll probably see Graham Zusi slide back to the CAM role while Soony Saad and Toni Dovale man the wings. It is also likely we see Claudio Bieler earn his first start since May with Dwyer out.

New England Revolution

New England has had an interesting season to say the least. Their last match against Sporting KC was the start of a five-game winning streak, which then lead to an eight-game losing streak. It seems they have righted the ship, however, having won their last two games and having also signed Jermaine Jones to bolster their midfield. They sit third in the Eastern Conference, tied with three other teams at 33 points each. With the volatility of the middle of the Eastern Conference, every match becomes huge in their playoff push.

Who to Watch

Sporting Kansas City- Claudio Bieler

We haven't seen Claudio Bieler start since May, but Sporting may have to play their designated player since Dom Dwyer is out with yellow card accumulation. While Dwyer is more of pressuring attacker, Bieler is a technical finisher that can put balls in the net if given the chance. He'll have Zusi behind him in the midfield instead of on the wing, so he'll likely have some opportunities coming through the middle, but not as much from the sides. If Bieler can step up and have a good game and replace Dwyer's production well, then Sporting is going to have a much better chance in this game.

New England Revolution- Lee Nguyen

Nguyen has been hot lately for New England, getting two goals and an assist in his last two games for the Revs. This is a game where Nguyen can do really well because Sporting KC's back line has been performing less than proficient in the past couple of games. Jorge Claros is still adjusting to the midfield and Lawrence Olum has not been good lately, so Nguyen can turn the midfield into his opportunity breeding ground. This is a game where Nguyen can really hurt Sporting KC, especially considering his success the last couple of games.

Why They'll Win

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC can win this match by having their back line play like their back line should. Maybe the past two games were just mental lapses that allowed the goals to come in quick succession, quickly digging the hole. If that's the case, then Sporting can use this match to get back on the right track by pressuring the Revolution forwards into giving up the ball and taking poor shots. The Revs back line is a tough nut to crack but well placed balls from Zusi through the middle can give Sporting a chance to score. I'm not saying it's likely, but it is possible.

New England Revolution

The Revs can win this match by controlling the midfield and by making Claros and Olum defensive liabilities. The two-defensive midfielder strategy can either work well for Sporting KC or, considering the recent play of both of those players, can lead to the midfield getting overwhelmed. Lee Nguyen and possibly Daigo Kobayashi teaming up in the midfield present a threat to Sporting KC if they can make Olum and Claros non-factors. It really all comes down to who wins that midfield battle and whether Sporting KC's back line can provide decent coverage instead of being the revolving door they've been the past two matches.

Predictions

Lineups

Sporting Kansas City: Kempin; Juliao, Ellis, Besler, Sinovic; Claros, Olum, Zusi; Dovale, Bieler, Saad.

New England Revolution: Shuttleworth; Farrell, Soares, Goncalves, Barnes; Jones, Rowe, Kobayashi, Nguyen, Fagundez; Bunbury.

Scoreline