After a rough two game road losing streak, the first such losses since the shocking loss to D.C. United all the way back on May 27th (assuming you ignore the Open Cup loss to Houston -- and I want to ignore that loss), Sporting Kansas City will return to Children's Mercy Park to take on the Seattle Sounders FC.
The match-up will take place at 2 PM CT (ESPN) and despite that both teams are struggling, everyone seems more worried about the heat. Sporting will even allow fans to bring in one 20 ounce bottle of water to deal with the heat. Speaking of heat, it is firmly on for these two clubs that currently sit beneath the red line in the race for the six Western Conference Playoff spots.
Things are better for SKC who currently are seventh (28 points) as compared to the Sounders who sit in ninth (20 points). That leaves Seattle an astounding 9 points out of sixth place and potentially heading towards missing the playoffs for the first time in their existence in MLS. Good news for the Sounders is they have dominated this all-time series (7-3-3). On the other hand, Sporting are unbeaten in four straight games with Seattle (2-0-2) including a 1-0 win on the back of a Nuno Andre Coelho goal to open the 2016 MLS season. Coelho will be unavailable for Sunday's match-up.
As many of you no doubt no, Seattle always seems to find a way to break Sporting's heart. They have scored eight of their 13 regular season goals against Sporting in the 75th minute or later and have defeated SKC five times by scoring in stoppage time. Ouch.
If you are looking for hope, Tim Melia is undefeated against the Sounders (2-0-1) and has never allowed a goal in any of those meetings. Melia, along with much of the rest of the team, sat out the game last September when a rag tag group of mostly backups pulled off a 1-1 draw at Sporting Park (pre-sponsorship I can't call it CMP).
More good news for fans of Sporting KC is that Seattle is pretty bad this year. They have only one road victory (1-6-2) and are 2-7-1 in their last 10 league games. If Sporting can score first, it just gets better as Seattle has yet to win when they concede first (0-9-2). Sporting tend to play very well early in games so if they can find an early goal, that should be a good sign. Another good sign is that Sporting score more at home, a lot more at home. They have 24 goals on the season and 17 of them are at home despite playing an equal number of home and away games. Let's get to the suspensions, injuries and starting eleven.
– Sporting KC: None
– Sounders: Osvaldo Alonso (yellow card accumulation)
Suspended Next Yellow Card:
– Sporting KC: Jimmy Medranda
– Sounders: None
– Sporting KC:
OUT: Matt Besler (MCL Sprain), Justin Mapp (left calf strain), Brad Davis (left calf strain)
QUESTIONABLE: Nuno Andre Coelho (hamstring strain), Paulo Nagamura (left thigh strain), Graham Zusi (hamstring strain)
OUT: Roman Torres (left ACL tear), Aaron Kovar (fractured clavical)
Sporting Kansas City’s Last Five: D/W/W/L/L
Seattle's Last Five: L/D/L/W/L
– Sporting KC: Dom Dwyer (8)
– Sounders: Jordan Morris (7)
Starting XI Prediction:
Abdul-Salaam – Opara – Olum – Medranda
Feilhaber – Mustivar – Espinoza
Peterson – Dwyer – Hallisey
Rest of the 18: Kann, Rubio, Zusi, Coelho, Sinovic, Porter
First, let's address all these injuries. Zusi is supposedly healthy enough to be in the 18 but I could see Peter Vermes sticking with a lineup he has trotted out over and over in recent weeks. Especially with injuries to Davis, Mapp, Besler and Coelho (side note: What is up with these muscle injuries? It's an epidemic).
Since all the injuries don't effect who should start based on recent starting lineups, it's the bench that is actually the concern. You'll notice above I don't have a full 18 because there aren't 18 healthy players on the team. I fully expect someone, probably Kevin Ellis, to be recalled from the Swope Park Rangers. Same for Alec Kann as there has to be a backup goalkeeper [Update: All four recent loanees have been recalled]. I've stuck Cameron Porter on the bench but I don't even know if he's joined the team since the Amadou Dia trade.
On the other side of the pitch the Seattle Sounders are a team without an identity after the Obafemi Martins trade. Jordan Morris has done well in his rookie season and will no doubt be a good to great player for years to come. Outside of Morris the Sounders need help. Clint Dempsey has returned from the Copa America break, but he hasn't been himself when Sigi Schmid tries to play him at the number 10 role in the midfield of a 4-3-3. With Seattle playing two wingers that get forward a lot, it leaves Dempsey defending too much, which doesn't fit his game. It seems it should be him and Morris up top, with Dempsey sitting slightly deeper and the wingers moved back into the midfield.
All that said, let's hope they don't figure these things out this week in their trip to Kansas City. Seattle desperately need points to have a chance to make the playoffs and Sporting desperately need to keep winning at home since they are abysmal on the road. That could lead to a stalemate.
Despite all the injuries, I expect that the consistency of the lineup for Sporting will out weigh the lack of talent on the pitch. Heck maybe Zusi and Rubio come on late to give the team a jolt and they spring a stoppage time goal on Seattle for once. I'd prefer the team scores early to relieve any possible stress and anxiety for the fans, but it probably won't happen. That said, they've scored 11 times in the first half to 13 in the second half, so the split is pretty equal.
1-0 Sporting KC Win
Now let us all hope that I haven't just cursed the home team.