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Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders: Three Questions with Sounder at Heart

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I spoke with Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart about Saturday's match at Sporting Park against the leaders of the Western Conference. After playing to a 0-0 draw in Seattle just a couple weeks ago, what can we expect this time around?

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We ask them...

1. What differences from a couple weeks ago in Seattle will see in the Sounder lineup and tactics?

It's almost certain that Seattle's going to bunker and pray for one special moment. Here's the list of absences, reasons and likely replacements. Take a deep breath.

Brad Evans is with the United States National Team. Zach Scott will start.
Osvaldo Alonso was suspended. Azira is his natural replacement, but the midfield is kind of hosed, so more changes are likely.
Clint Dempsey's wife is delivering their fourth child soon. Lamar Neagle probably slides up to forward.
Obafemi Martins had to get minor surgery on his broken nose. Chad Barrett would play, but...
Chad Barrett didn't practice this week because of some minor issue. That means Darwin Jones or Victor Mansaray start.
Gonzalo Pineda has a lingering ankle issue. This normally means that Andy Rose starts.
Neagle is going to be one of the forwards, which means Cristian Roldan starts.

So just five changes from the Ideal XI and one of the starters will get their first ever MLS start (Jones, Mansaray or even Kovar or Thomas if the team does a 4-5-1). There's also a chance that Leo Gonzalez gets reinserted at left back just to up the defense a bit more.

2. Seattle has only conceded 10 goals so far and Sporting KC could be without their only 2 strikers. What tactics have been effective (if any) in creating chances against this stingy back line?

Without Evans Seattle's line will be a bit more prone to long balls, so high pressure against should lead to turnovers. There's also going to be a lack of lateral movement with Scott in there. So square balls and movements should lead to more shooting opportunities. I would strongly recommend against depending on winning aerial balls. Marshall, Scott and Rose are great at that. Losing B-Rad doesn't really impact Seattle's ability in the air.

3. These two fan bases seem to enjoy having a go at each other. Is it mutual hate? Mutual respect?

Seattle's rivalry chest is filling up a bit. There's Portland and Vancouver with Cascadia. There's the Galaxy and RSL with their dominance in the West. What Sporting KC offers is probably best answered by Eric over on the SaH Facebook page:

"They [Sporting] stole one of our USOC's. They foul every counter attack because they can't win without using that garbage tactic. There is no respect involved in the equation from my perspective."

So, maybe Sounders do have room for a fifth rival.

Lineup:

Frei; Remick, Scott, Marshall, Mears; Roldan, Rose, Azira, Pappa; Neagle, Jones

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They ask us...

1. Will Sporting try to sit back absorb while at home?

Sporting KC will always throw guys forward at home in front of the Cauldron. Even with so many different absences they were still wanting to give a fun game to the fans and go for all 3 points at home. Things should look different however. Nemeth is with Hungary and if Dwyer is unable to go, Jacob Peterson the emergency guy is probably out as well! So there shouldn't be much of anything for hold up play at the front. Because of that, it will be difficult to get enough guys forward. So we may see be seeing several long balls from the likes of Feilhaber, Besler, and Espinoza.

If Dwyer and Peterson are both out, then Vermes has said we may see James Rogers get his first MLS start (and first minutes all together) at striker. That would be pretty surprising, however. Conner Hallisey (another rookie) played great last week on the wing, and he could very well get the start there.

2. KC ripped Dallas apart. What can they take from that game against a Seattle side that may sit back a bit?

I think the biggest take away from that game was confidence. This season has been a lot getting acclimated and weathering a storm of injuries. There are guys playing out of position. There are guys new to the league and figuring things out. They have been forced to test rookies. But the Dallas game put an exclamation point on this 6 game unbeaten run. Tim Melia has locked down the keeper position and provided stability in back. The rookies played great. The thrown together back line showed they can lock it down. Everyone has settled in and they began playing with some swag.

They proved that game that Vermes' has built this very deep squad that can still win as a unit. I think they know it in their heads that they can play with anyone and beat anyone despite who is absent from the roster. So even without two leading scorers, they can believe that if everyone does their job, they can still get all 3 points.

3. Benny Feilhaber wasn't called up to the US National Team. What's he need to do to earn the colors again?

That is a VERY good question. Jurgen gave him a shot at last year's January camp where he made it to the final cuts, but that is the only time. There really isn't much more he can do. He has been perhaps the best midfielder in MLS stretching back to the 2013 Playoffs. I suppose if SKC continue this streak and win some silverware, Benny could win himself an MVP. If that happens, I don't know how Jurgen could legally ignore him. There should be some law against that somewhere.

That being said, Sporting KC fans don't actually get all up in arms about it. And that is because, FFS, Sporting KC need a break from international duties. Last year was relentless and this year is the Gold Cup. Espinoza, Zusi, Besler, De Jong, Mustivar all could be gone. Nemeth got called up for Hungary. Erik Palmer-Brown is with the US U-20's. On top of all the injuries, I shudder to think where this team would be without him.

Significant Absences:

Krisztian Nemeth is with the Hungarian National Team. Seth Sinovic is out with a concussion. Ike Opara ruptured achilles. Paulo Nagamura is out with a back strain. Chance Myers is nearing a return but still out from his achilles. Jacob Peterson is questionable with a hamstring strain. Dom Dwyer is questionable with a... WE HAVE NO IDEA.

Projected Lineup:

(4-3-3) Tim Melia, Jalil Anibaba, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Amadou Dia, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi, Connor Hallisey, Marcel De Jong