We ask them...
1) Salt Lake have many familiar faces from recent years when they were successful, but are struggling now. What is the biggest difference? A lack of Jason Kreis, perhaps?
More than a formation change, a coaching change, or the loss of a few veteran players (which most would point their fingers at), I would argue that RSL's biggest issue thus far in the season has boiled down to injuries and call-ups. I would lean more towards injuries than call-ups. The reason for the struggles would be something along the lines of injuries: 60% to blame, call-ups: 30% to blame, other: 10% to blame. Joao Plata was injured the first practice session of the season. Not the way you want to kick off a season. Sebastian Jaime was injured shortly thereafter. Then Javier Morales went down twice for different injuries.Chris Schuler followed suit. Jamison Olave has joined in on the fun a couple times. It seems like one key player after another has been out for something week to week. It seems like they are finally getting back to a relatively healthy team so hopefully things start to gel.
2) Sitting next to last place in the West with 18 points, what is the outlook among the RSL faithful? Can this team make a run for a playoff spot?
The outlook is frustrated. Fans are frustrated, the team is frustrated, pretty much every one is frustrated. RSL has been a model of consistency since Kreis took over. Jeff Cassar had a lot of success last year as well. This year has been a strange one so far and not one that most of the fanbase is used to seeing. The Playoffs are still very much a possibility. I would say that if things don't turn around by the middle of July, then we are in trouble. There are plenty of games between now and then so we will know a lot more than we know now, especially once the ideal starting XI is finally on the field together.
3) What will look different from when these teams met in April? Will RSL open themselves up more at home? Any absences for SKC to work with?
RSL is typically more of an offensive-minded team at home. They want to dictate the pace and control the game. It seems like the last couple of times they were in KC, the focus was to not concede rather to win the game. I think with the comments of Benny Feilhaber, there is some extra motivation to make them "feel bad" as Jeff Cassar put it, whether or not the players are focusing on that in the media. The most notable absences in this match will definitely be Jamison Olave, Chris Schuler, and Elias Vasquez. Those are our preferred three CBs and they are all out to injury or VISA issues. They will be tested in a big way at home, especially Phanuel Kavita (assuming he starts) who will be seeing his first MLS minutes.
They ask us...
1) There was a while there when the Sporting KC defense seemed lost and frustrated. Are things back to normal with Matt Besler leading a stingy back line?
Sporting definitely found a rhythm. The off season brought in several new faces and then injuries saw those players having impacts right away. There was an adjustment period as guys like Krisztian Nemeth found their footing in the league. Rookies were thrown into the fire and at one point SKC had 3 on the field at once. And then they found this great run of form in the midst of all of it. It is definitely not back to normal however. Besler and Kevin Ellis have found a way to make things work on the back line, but perhaps one of the biggest pieces is the introduction of Soni Mustivar. He has not been Uri Rosell. But Uri is going to be impossible to replace. Mustivar has now learned the flow of the league and locked down the holding mid position bolstering a thrown together back line. On top of that the starting keeper, Luis Marin, was replaced with Tim Melia. Melia has come in and played better than anyone dreamed. So yes, Besler has figured out how to get things together and throw up some big shut outs. However, I think most of SKC nation is waiting to see a CB picked up in the next transfer window.
2) Benny Feilhaber made it clear that he doesn't like Real Salt Lake much. Is the perception that RSL is cocky without reason a widespread sentiment among Sporting KC fans?
I don't know that cocky is necessarily the right word. For me, what has always irked me about RSL was the whole conversation that it was contrasting styles of play. That SKC was accused of being rough while RSL fancied themselves to be a team of slick dribbling and cheeky passes. Sporting KC has always shown fantastic buildup with dinks and flicks and played the 'jogo bonito' and Salt Lake have guys like Beckerman that foul with the best of them. So the quotes of Benny's that made sense to me was more the part of, "they think they are something they are not." But at this point, I just love this matchup and I always look forward to these two teams facing off.
I hope RSL fans don't just plain and simply hate Benny for those comments. It' a good rivalry and he was stirring the pot a bit.
3) Dom Dwyer and Sydney Leroux have become somewhat of soccer celebrities. How much fun is that to watch for Sporting fans?
HONESTY HOUR. I do have to admit.... It is pretty fun. We do sort of love them. One thing I liked about their match was that it was covered in all media outlets including places like TMZ. They are both big personalities who do a lot for growing game in this country. We love watching them prank each other on social media, or when Dom shares
bikinivacation photos, or when Sydney calls out Dom for missing scoring chances on Twitter. They seem to be a great match and I don't think Sporting fans can decide who they like more between them! Not to mention it is fun to watch just because they are both really, really ridiculously, good looking (in my best Zoolander voice).
Tim Melia, Chance Myers, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Marcel De Jong, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Krisztian Nemeth, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi
2-2 After Sporting give up a late goal!