Sporting Kansas City is looking to carry over a fantastic performance from last week as rival Real Salt Lake come to town. I got with Matt Montgomery from the SB Nation site, RSL Soapbox, to discuss Saturday's match.
Here are your three questions, but really six.
We ask them...
1) DP striker, Yura Movsisyan, began his career as a Generation Adidas player for the KC Wizards back in 2006. I was really interested in this signing when they brought him back this year and he's got 2 goals in 10 starts this season. What do you think about him so far? Can he be THE guy for RSL?
Matt Montgomery: It's hard to really form a definite opinion on Movsisyan so far — and that's not because we haven't tried. It's more that he's looked simultaneously rust-ridden and an extremely dangerous striker — and that comes out in his finishing. Before the season started, he talked about how much his finishing has improved, but he's had clear-cut chances in most of RSL's matches. His goal count speaks for itself. His positioning, movement and ability to be in the right place at the right time makes me certain he can be a massively important cog in RSL's system, but he needs to shake off the rust of the last year of his time in Russia — and fast.
2) Head Coach Jeff Cassar faced quite a bit of criticism last season and some were even calling for him to get the ax. He's got Salt Lake in a playoff position at the moment with 17 points in 10 matches. Has the heat cooled off this season? What is your opinion of the skipper?
MM: I think the heat's cooled off a bit, but everyone's still on edge here in Salt Lake. He's been more vocal this year about the problems the team has faced, and it's seemed like he's making fewer excuses — and though I'd argue most of that is just a shift in approach to press conferences and interviews, there is an impression that he's a wiser, more capable coach now. He has RSL finally playing in a style that really suits the team, but it's hardly a finished product.
3) Although it didn't seem to affect them at all, RSL had several injuries and used the extreme hardship rule in a 2-1 win over Sporting KC back in April. Will Salt Lake be at full force this weekend?
MM: Full-force? Probably. Joao Plata is back in action, as is Javier Morales. But 2016 signing Sunny is somewhat of a question mark, having missed last match through injury, and Aaron Maund is probably not yet ready to return after suffering a strain a few weeks ago. Expect all the big names to be present for this one, and anyone's who's close will probably play. The team seems to care about this match-up more than others. I can't imagine why.
RSL Soapbox Predicted Lineup
Rimando; Beltran, Glad, Olave, Wingert; Beckerman, Sunny; Plata, Morales, Martinez; Movsisyan
They ask us...
1) What's the deal in Kansas City? After a strong start to the season, you suffered five losses in seven matches. Has there been corrective action since?
Cody Bradley: Peter Vermes did everything under the sun during the stretch. He turned up the intensity in training after a couple bad games. When it continued he switched up the formation. And when it got really bad he was benching his under performers and challenging his players to be better.
The winless streak reach 7 matches and the scoreless streak reached 317 minutes. Sporting KC ended both of those last week against Orlando as they set a franchise record with 34 shots. They actually only truly looked like a BAD team in a couple of those matches. In many of them, they were controlling the game and getting off shots, but unable to score. Last week was a dominant performance all around and they looked like the incredibly dangerous team we saw at the beginning of the season.
2) What's the biggest thing Real Salt Lake fans can look forward to about facing SKC? Are they stronger or weaker than when we last squared off?
CB: Hopefully, there isn't much for them to look forward too! But these teams love kicking each other and all the usual suspects will be out there.
Last time around, both Ike Opara and Matt Besler were unavailable at CB. That, quite unfortunately, meant Kevin Ellis got the start there. So the defense should upgraded from the last meeting. Roger Espinoza was also out and Jordi Quintilla was playing in the midfield. Espinoza had probably his best match of the season last week, and if he plays like that, this team will be FAR better than what RSL saw in April.
3) Kyle Beckerman recently referred to one of your players as a "bozo" while also citing his friendship with some others. We're certain that's Benny Feilhaber — how does he respond to being targeted like that? Will it backfire for RSL?
CB: I read the article in the Salt Lake Tribune about that. First of all, I think it's stupid he was being asked to respond to comments from last year. He responded to them last year, and it is old news anyway. Also, his comments were filled with irony. He felt what Benny said 'petty' and questioned why he didn't say it to them in stead of media in KC. But then he responded with petty name calling... to the media in Salt Lake.
Benny is definitely the kind of player who can feed off of things like that, although he probably doesn't need any extra motivation to play RSL. Honestly, he hasn't been near the same player as last season. He got off to a bad start with some poor giveaways and that amazing passing ability hasn't been on display. That is, until last week. He did look like his old self and it would be very nice to see him carry that performance into this week.
The Blue Testament Predicted Lineup
(4-3-3) Tim Melia, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Nuno Coelho, Matt Besler, Jimmy Medranda, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Brad Davis, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi