After an off week, the boys are back in action Friday night at Children's Mercy Park as they welcome rival Houston Dynamo. I got with Derek Stowers from our sister blog, Dynamo Theory, to discuss the match-up.
Here are your Three Questions, But Really Six
We ask them...
1) The Blue Testament: The Dynamo have just one win in the last 11 matches and are at the bottom of the MLS table. Any hope of turning things around and leapfrogging a few teams, or are they destined to finish in the cellar this year?
Derek Stowers: Although the Dynamo haven’t been winning games, they have been playing fairly well – at least on the defensive side of the ball. If the team can commit to supporting the offense either by beginning games in a 4-4-2 or other more attacking oriented formation than our "go-to" 4-1-4-1 we could move higher up the table and at least end the year on a bright note. However, with interim manager Wade Barrett essentially playing for his job next year, the team has become incredibly stout defensively at the expense of the offense. Basically the team is afraid to give up goals so they can’t score them.
2) TBT: Houston just made a deal to loan out Cubo Torres to Cruz Azul in Mexico a few days ago. He had just one assist in 11 appearances this season. How did you react, if at all? Do you think he is gone for good?
DS: I’ve been more critical of Cubo than most since he first arrived, but have given him plenty of passes. Last season he had some unpleasantness before he was able to make the move to Houston which he was cleared of, but likely kept his mind occupied. This season the Dynamo went from too many forwards to not enough and I don’t think Sebastian Giovinco could play well given the lack of support our forwards are given so it’s difficult to be too harsh on Cubo. My initial reaction was that I didn’t quite see it coming, but that I wouldn’t be too sad. Early in the year I wrote about Mauro Manotas possibly outcompeting Cubo for minutes given how well he played in preseason and now he has usurped the once formidable Mexican international player. I’m not sure if Cubo is gone as we have very few forwards on the roster now, but I’m happy we have Mauro in the wings waiting for his chance to shine.
3) TBT: The consecutive 8th place finishes the last two seasons are the worst in club history. Now the Dynamo are on pace to finish even worse this year. Is there hope for the future? Do you have faith the ownership wants to turn things around? Will a new coach be enough... or perhaps interim coach Wade Barrett is here to stay? What do you think needs to happen? What do you think will happen?
DS: There’s always hope – sorry to sound cliché, especially with a team that has a history of success behind it. The ownership group is fairly new to doing things on its own and has even come out with a letter outlining its frustrations with the lack of success and providing a timetable for when they’ll turn things around. The ownership group absolutely wants to turn things around and I believe it.
As to whether or not Wade Barrett deserves to have the interim title removed, I’m not sure. He’s turned a mediocre defense into one of the league’s best, but has failed to show ambition on the offensive side of the ball. Right now, I’ll have to see how we finish out the season before making a real decision about that (also have to see coaching candidates to replace him).
I truly believe that this team is not that far out from being a team that can compete for playoff spots. I don’t think they’ll do it this year, but if they can switch to a 4-4-2 and have the midfield press higher up, this could be a very dangerous team. Will that happen? Only if we’re desperate enough and right now we’re in last place so anything is possible.
Dynamo Theory Predictions
Lineup: 4-1-4-1: Joe Willis; Jalil Anibaba, Raul Rodriguez, Keyner Brown, Sheanon Williams; Collen Warner; Cristian Maidana, Alex Lima, Ricardo Clark, Andrew Wenger; Mauro Manotas
Final Score: 2-1 Dynamo…somehow
They ask us...
1) Dynamo Theory: With Graham Zusi with the USMNT, Matt Besler spending time with his family following the birth of his daughter, and with a multitude of other players injured such as MF Justin Mapp, GK Tim Melia, DF Chance Myers, and DF Lawrence Olum, SKC will be short on players ahead of this rivalry fixture. Who can we expect to see step into these roles?
Cody Bradley: The injury bug has been very real. As well as absences for suspensions and international duty. But this week will be slightly better. SKC was off last week and had time to rest up. Zusi is back and should be ready to play, as well as Besler. Matt could have possibly been given the day off to be with family, but he and Ike Opara are basically the only two fit CBs on the roster. Roger Espinoza had an absolute BS red card get rescinded, so he will be available. Really the only spot that should have a replacement on Friday is at left back for Jimmy Medranda's suspension. We will likely see a fairly new face in Ever Alvarado get the start, or there is a chance Seth Sinovic will be deemed healthy enough to get the nod.
2) DT: This is an important match. Sporting Kansas City currently sits in the 5th playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have the chance to climb the ranks before the season ends, but could very well slide below the red line as well. How will Peter Vermes adapt his tactics using the players you mentioned above to get a positive result?
CB: There are plenty of people who would laugh at the mere question of Vermes adapting his tactics. He loves to preach his philosophy and make sure there is no confusion in his system. That system has won him several trophies. His hesitancy is understandable.
Now there are, of course, several small shifts and changes in responsibility for each match-up. Things that are more difficult to see. You can be sure that Soni Mustivar and Roger Espinoza will have more work to do in being aware of a potential weak spot in the back line with Alvarado at LB. But this game is at home, against a struggling opponent, and the legs are rested. We can expect to see SKC come out flying as they try to control the game and get on the board early.
3) DT: Consistency has been a problem for SKC the last few months as they haven’t managed to string many positive results together. What needs to happen in order to turn things around on a regular basis?
CB: For a majority of the season I was believing that this team was much better than their place in the standings. They show they can hang with anybody on any night, and can beat them too. But then they struggle against the worst teams in the league. It doesn't make sense. You absolutely never know which team is going to show up.
For the most part, they put themselves in a position to earn a result every game. They are always right there and the margins are so thin. For me, the issue is finishing. They control games, they fire off plenty of shots, but can't seem to get the one goal they always need. Dom is scoring at a steady rate, although he could and probably should have about 6 more goals this year. The problem is the lack of production from the winger spots. Zusi can score but has failed to come close to DP numbers this year, and the crew of guys tabbed with holding down the other wing have disappointed as well. So many of draws this season simply have been wins. If three balls that hit the frame of goal would have bounced in the net instead of out, SKC could be in 2nd right now. It is so insanely frustrating to see all of these games shake out when one small ounce of luck would have earned points.
So I'm at the point where I have no freaking clue what is going to happen. I will never think this team is going to get blown out, but I will never think this team is going to blow anyone out themselves. What needs to happen is somebody on the wing who can put the ball in the net. That can't happen this year, so a combination of Zusi, Davis, Mapp, Hallisey, Peterson and Porter absolutely HAVE to step up and start producing on the wing if KC wants to make a run at MLS Cup.
The Blue Testament Predictions
Lineup: (4-3-3) Alec Kann, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Ever Alvarado, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer, Brad Davis
Final Score: Sporting Kansas City 3 - 1 Houston Dynamo