Sporting KC stole all three points in Seattle and return to KC to open up the newly named Children's Mercy Park on Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps. So I got with Jon Szekeres of our sister blog, Eighty Six Forever, to discuss the match-up.
We ask them...
1) Cody Bradley: Whitecaps lost the home opener last week to the Impact 3-2, but if not for the crossbar and some crazy saves the result could have been very different. Are you still optimistic about this season?
Jon Szekeres: 100%. The Whitecaps didn't look at their best in the season opener, but there's no denying the potential of this squad. The talent is obvious; Pedro Morales is healthy and looks like he's returned to his MLS Newcomer of the Year form, Octavio Rivero had a slew of chances last week and looks like he could have a great season, and Kendall Waston remains one of the best defenders in MLS. There are no doubt issues on this team; Fraser Aird is the replacement for Steven Beitashour and had an awful game on the weekend, for example, but the Whitecaps have the pieces in place to be one of the better teams in the Western Conference. Now, whether or not they can put it all together remains to be seen.
2) CB: What additions or losses have there been from this Vancouver team that fell to Portland in the Conference Semifinals after finishing 3rd in the Supporter's Shield race last year?
JS: Blas Perez joined the squad to provide scoring depth and leadership, and the Whitecaps also went outside the league, bringing in midfielders Christian Bolanos from Costa Rican Primera Division, and Masato Kudo from Japan. You won't have to deal with Bolanos though, as he's serving a one match suspension for a tackle he made in the season opener. On the backline, the aforementioned Aird joined the club from the Rangers FC in Scotland. As for losses, the most prominent was the trade of Steven Beitashour to TFC. Beitashour looked like he had lost a step last season, but he was still a solid backliner and important member of the club. Elsewhere, Robert Earnshaw retired, and the club made a very emotional trade when they dealt midfielder Gershon Koffie to the New England Revolution. Koffie had been a member of the inaugural 2011 Whitecaps squad and was definitely a fan favorite.
3) CB: I'm excited for this match after the crazy 4-3 thriller last year, but I am probably more excited to watch the mini battle of Dom Dwyer vs Kendall Waston. Dom loves to get into it like that, is Waston the same way or does Dwyer just bring it out in him? Will they manage to escape the match without any punishment?
JS: Kendall loves to play physical, but the dude is the type of player that always needs to check his emotions and toe the line. He's huge and an intimidating presence on the Whitecaps backline, but can also be a bit of a card machine. I imagine we will see quite the battle between the two on the weekend.
Eighty Six Forever Predictions
Whitecaps escape Kansas with a point, 1-1
They ask us...
1) Jon Szekeres: What did you take away from SKC in week one?
Cody Bradley: It's actually kind of hard to tell what you can take away from last week's win. First of all, there were plenty of injuries so we didn't necessarily get a look at the First XI. And then on top of that, half the match was played with a man advantage. But they did have the same overall qualities of PV's teams in years passed. They were high pressure and high intensity, they were physical, they kept themselves in it and gave themselves a shot to win points. However the goal was rather fortunate and it's hard to tell how much you can look into the 30 straight passes that led to it when you consider the red card.
But one glaring fact is that Roger Espinoza is back. SKC did very well in the midfield and it is mainly because of Roger. After being injured a big portion of last season it is very nice to have him back. Overall I came away feeling pretty damn good about the game. If that is how they look without Benny Feilhaber, and with Connor Hallisey on the wing in stead of Brad Davis/Justin Mapp, then this team could be really dangerous at full strength.
2) JS: What is Sporting KC expecting from their new addition, 22 year old Diego Rubio?
CB: Depth is what Vermes and this team preached all preseason. When you look at each position in this lineup, there are basically two guys for every spot you can feel comfortable about. Until a few days ago, the one exception to that rule was at striker. Although it is very weird to bring a DP striker to be a backup, it looks like that is what Rubio will be for a while.
Sporting KC moved Nemeth to the wing to get him on the field, but he was a more developed, well-rounded player than Rubio. This young player appears to be a true center forward that operates right in front of goal and needs service. So it is hard to see him playing on the wing, at least for a while. It is also really, really hard to see Vermes switching up his beloved 4-3-3 to accommodate an untested, unfamiliar 22 year old.
BUT... the loan is only until June 30th with an option to purchase him, or to extend the loan through the MLS season. If he is to be Dom's backup, his starts will be very sparse until USOC and CCL play begin later in the season.
3) JS: How does Kansas City stack up with the 'Caps?
CB: This is going to be a great game, I love when these teams get together. Beyond the fun match up of Dwyer/Waston, there are a few other parts of the field to keep an eye on.
Fraser Aird made his debut last week for the Whitecaps and is a ripe 21 years old. If he is starting again, he is going to have his hands full with the combination of Brad Davis and Graham Zusi flying at him on the wing. Brad was out last week, but in preseason he appeared to slide perfectly into the lineup and he should be available Saturday. He and Zusi are dangerous from both sides and will be switching up the wings frequently to give Aird something different to deal with all game.
The new CB duo of Coelho and Besler is going to really be put to the test. The sneaky, quick, and dangerous Octavio Rivero will be lurking and Pedro Morales has the skills to find him. The communication between the Portugese native Coelho, the rest of the back line, and Tim Melia, will be challenged as they try to keep track of Rivero.
I'm interested to see how SKC deals with Pedro Morales. Soni Mustivar at holding mid will bear a lot of that load, but you can definitely expect to see Morales and Espinoza collide quite a bit as well. Espinoza will be there to be physical with, and disrupt Morales. Hopefully to funnel him straight into the defense. Mustivar is there to intercept the passes if he does get them off. But Sporting KC will hope that Mustivar and the defense have a handle on things in order to free up Espinoza to get further down the pitch and join the attack.
(4-3-3) Tim Melia, Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Nuno Andre Coelho, Amadou Dia, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Jordi Quintilla, Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer, Brad Davis
Sporting KC 3 - 1 Vancouver Whitecaps