Facing Orlando City in MLS for the first time, Three Questions just wasn't going to cut it. I got with Michael Citro from our sister blog, The Mane Land, to discuss Sunday's match.
Our old friend Aurelien Collin moved over to Orlando for the inaugural season, how have City fans taken to him? Has he opened up another clothing store there yet? While we are on the subject, has Servando Carrasco been able to turn his season around since being traded to Orlando City for Amobi Okugo?
Michael Citro: Collin is a favorite among many Orlando City fans, although he had to win people over after being sent off with a red card both in a preseason game against Houston and in the inaugural MLS match against New York City FC. From that point on he has largely been the club's best defender although he struggled with a hamstring a bit in the middle part of the season.
As for Carrasco, he has shown flashes of the player he could be but they are few and far between. He plays a nice long ball and switches the field well, but he's been caught flat-footed in defense more than once and has turned the ball over more than we'd like.
It looks like Kaka picked up an injury while with the Brazilian National Team. He didn't play in the USA game, did he feature in any of Brazil's matches? How serious is the injury and is he likely out for Sunday's match?
Kaká played 23 minutes in the first Brazil match off the bench. We're officially being told he's day-to-day but one outlet has called him doubtful. The injury isn't thought to be serious. It's been called a 'muscle strain' in his leg and he has had calf problems in the past. We're not sure if this is related but the way Orlando City's injury luck has run this year, I'm not expecting him in the lineup on Sunday.
We know very well that people love Dom there in Orlando, but the Lions have a helluva young striker themselves in Cyle Larin. He's got 11 goals so far and looks to be a lock for Rookie of the Year. What has been the key to his success? Can he keep up that form as the season wraps up?
MC: The key to Larin's success is that he's coachable. He's doing the things that Adrian Heath and Mark Watson have asked him to do and simply using his power, pace and athleticism to do the rest. Of late, he hasn't been in the best form but he's not been getting great service either. It's possible he's pressing a bit to get No. 12 out of the way. He's a rookie, so he's inconsistent, but when he's on his game he shows he can be a star in this league.
OCSC is on a 6 game winless streak and is below the red (playoff) line. Are they going to be able to leapfrog a couple teams and earn a spot in the playoffs?
MC: That's a great question. We certainly hope so. The schedule sets up nicely from here on out, with games against a lot of the Eastern Conference's bottom-half teams. However, the Lions haven't been able to score goals and have conceded at an alarming rate on the road the last month. The poor run of form coincides with Brek Shea being out, which is kind of odd, considering he hasn't really factored in the scoring this year. If his return can spark a run, City can still get in, but the team can't afford to drop any more points.
How about your projected lineup and score?
MC: I'm going to be hopeful and say 2-1 to Orlando City, but if Kaká can't play, this could be an easy night for Sporting Kansas City.
Tally Hall; Luke Boden, Aurelien Collin, David Mateos, Rafael Ramos; Servando Carrasco, Cristian Higuita; Carlos Rivas, Lewis Neal, Adrian Winter; Cyle Larin.
I think Shea will be in the 18. If Kaká can go, he'll play the CAM role instead of Neal.
Who are three players from Sporting Kansas City (who are expected to play) that Orlando City fans should know about?
Cody Bradley: Well first of all... Benny Feilhaber is everything to this team. He absolutely does it all. He is capable of a wonder strike from 40 yards out, but can keep possession around multiple defenders. He can make a great tackle all the way back on defense, but can destroy a defense with a single pass on the other side of the field. He's got 8 goals and 13 assists so far and has himself in the MVP discussion.
Tim Melia, the keeper, is a big reason SKC are in the position they are in. He was an MLS pool goal keeper last year, and brought in this season to be a back up. Once he was given the opportunity he never looked back and has made the position his own. The last game against Portland, he almost single-handedly won the team the away point with 7 huge saves.
Kristztian Nemeth is the other to be prepared for. This is the Hungarian's first season in MLS and he has hit the ground running. It was clear from the first touch in spring training that Nemeth was going to score goals and be a very important piece to the team. Nemo also has 8 goals plus 6 assists from his winger position. OCSC will not want to see him get the ball in the box as he can be very clever, and he is especially dangerous with his back to goal.
What is the team's preferred style of play and formation?
CB: Peter Vermes has always gone - and seemingly will always go - with the high flying 4-3-3. He requires A LOT from his full backs as they fly up the wings frequently. They do preach a lot about being able to play an attractive style of soccer and put on a show for fans. With cheeky players like Zusi, Feilhaber, and Nemeth, the jogo bonito is indeed on display quite a bit. But they do play very physical. Because they push forward so much, you will notice that when a ball is lost, they crash immediately. If a foul is called then so be it, the counter attack was stopped.
What are SKC's strengths and weaknesses so far in 2015?
CB: I think what has been the key this season is the depth. This has been another year of being hit with injuries and call ups, but everyone has stepped up big. Vermes has played 3 rookies on the field at the same time, more than once this season. He does a fantastic job of putting confidence in his players. Balance has been another big thing. Last year Dom was the only person who was going to score. This year Feilhaber, Dwyer, and Nemo all have 8 goals. And then there is Zusi and Espinoza who are a threat as well.
The weakness now is defense. Ike Opara returned from injury and was paired with Besler in the back. He was playing fantastic and scoring goals (nominated POTM in March) before he went down with an achilles injury. Kevin Ellis has stepped up huge, but he is just not a true CB and he is very small. Veterans are returning to their fullback spots, but most of the season there has been a whole lot of inexperience back there.
There was some animosity earlier this season after Adrian Heath's remarks about trying to acquire Dom Dwyer, yet these two teams also worked out a trade in the transfer window. Do you expect a little bad blood between the two sides on Sunday?
CB: Nahh I don't see it like that. I think it makes for good banter between fan bases, but I really doubt if that will show itself on the field. All the various comment boards have been lively with that discussion for sure! But SKC have too much on the line this game the quibble over those remarks from a while ago. Hopefully, they will be all business and focused on the task at hand. With games in hand on the leaders, the Supporters' Shield is still not out of reach.
What is your projected starting XI and predicted score line for Sunday?
CB: (4-3-3) Tim Melia, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Soni Mustivar, Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber, Krisztian Nemeth, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi
Chance Myers has apparently picked up another injury at RB, so we will probably see SAS get his 2nd consecutive start there. We may very well see Jordi Quintilla get his first start in place for Nagamura (in place for injured Roger Espinoza). Benny would slide back a little bit and Quintilla would probably be the attacking mid.
Sporting Kansas City 2 - 1 Orlando City SC