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Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps Match Preview

Sporting KC look for their third straight big win, but can they overcome two days rest to take out the Western Conference leading Vancouver Whitecaps?

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

About the Teams

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC have had a fairly good week so far. After a surprising win over Toronto FC, they muscled out a win over Real Salt Lake Wednesday to advance to the US Open Cup final. They could put the cherry on top with a win over Vancouver, which would pull them within two points of the conference lead with a couple games in hand. It will be tough, however. On top of the exhaustion of playing three matches in eight days, they may also be without Graham Zusi, who has missed the past two matches and will be a game time decision. If he can't go, look for Connor Hallisey to get the start with Jacob Peterson listed as questionable.

Vancouver Whitecaps

The Vancouver Whitecaps are also coming into this match having played the previous Saturday and Wednesday, the difference being that they did not throw out a full strength lineup in their Canadian Championship match against Montreal on Wednesday. They may be without Mauro Rosales, who did not play last week with a hip flexor and also may be without Martia Laba, who picked up a knock against Montreal. They will definitely be without Kendall Watson, who is suspended this match.

Who to Watch

Sporting Kansas City- Graham Zusi

Graham Zusi has missed the past couple of matches with a calf strain and will be a game time decision against Vancouver. Following him will be interesting whether he is able to play or not. If he does play, it'll be interesting to see how his calf restrains him or doesn't and how the attack on the wing adjusts to that. If he is not able to play, Bernardo Anor is officially out and Jacob Peterson is questionable, meaning Connor Hallisey is the only winger available. Graham Zusi's ability to play tomorrow changes things in a lot of ways due to Sporting KC's injury luck and lack of winger depth.

Vancouver Whitecaps- Nicolás Mezquida

The young Uruguayan midfielder has started the past four games for Vancouver and will likely fill in for Mauro Rosales. It'll be interesting to watch him since he's a physical player who both commits fouls and gets fouled. While his attacking stats aren't eye-catching -- a goal and an assist in 15 total appearances this season -- his ability to draw fouls could prey on one of Sporting KC's weaknesses: giving up set piece goals. Against Soni Mustivar and Paulo Nagamura, who are likely playing their third match in eight days, he could take advantage of a tired midfield.

How They'll Win

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC can win this match by getting ahead early and then controlling possession. The longer this match goes on without a score, the more it favors the Whitecaps. Sporting and Vancouver are very similar teams with potent attacks (33 and 34 goals respectively) and stingy defenses (22 goals allowed each, good for lowest in the league). If Sporting can get ahead early, they can force the Whitecaps to try and play from behind on the road, which allows Sporting to set up for a counterattack. The fouls in the final defensive third will need to be limited as well.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Vancouver will need to attack the middle of the field where Nagamura and Mustivar are in attempts to either draw fouls close to the goal or to try and get the ball through to Kekuta Manneh and Octavio Rivero. As said earlier, the longer the match goes on deadlocked, the more this match favors Vancouver. If Sporting are dead on their feet by the 60th minute, Vancouver can use this to their advantage and turn on the attack in the final third of the game. What they cannot do is allow Sporting to frustrate them in the middle, they need to stretch the game out and turn it into a game of stamina where free kicks will hopefully abound for the away side.

Predictions

Lineups

Ben's Sporting KC Lineup: Melia; Myers, Besler, Ellis, Dia; Mustivar, Nagamura, Feilhaber; Nemeth, Dwyer, Hallisey

Reader's Poll  SKC Lineup: Melia; Myers, Besler, Ellis, Dia; Mustivar, Nagamura, Feilhaber; Nemeth, Dwyer, Zusi

86 Forever's Whitecaps' lineup: Ousted, Beitashour, Parker, Kah, Harvey, Laba, Koffie, Mezquida, Techera. Manneh, Rivero