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SKC vs ATL: Three Questions with Dirty South Soccer

Three Questions But Really Six ahead of Sunday’s match against Atlanta United FC.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday will be the first ever meeting between Atlanta United FC and Sporting KC so I spoke with Haris Kruskic over at Dirty South Soccer to learn about the expansion team.

We ask them...

The Blue Testament: Josef Martinez has missed the last two matches with an injury. What is his status for Sunday?

Haris Kruskic: Completely up in the air. No one really knows what to expect this week. Atlanta United president Darren Eales said that if last week was a playoff match, Martinez would've absolutely played. One would assume that means he'll play against SKC, but perhaps Tata Martino decides to rest him this match as well considering Atlanta wouldn't play again until the 23rd.

TBT: Nobody has scored more goals than Atlanta United, but nobody has conceded fewer goals than Sporting KC. What makes the attack so lethal? And what sort of tactics will Gerard Martino use to break down the stingy defense in The Blue Hell?

HK: Well, I think the midfield of Atlanta is extremely diverse. Carlos Carmona and Jeff Larentowicz do a great job as holding midfielders of breaking up opposing attacks, which allows assist fanatic Yamil Asad, pacy Hector Villalba, or skillful Miguel Almiron to create opportunities for themselves or to find Josef Martinez, who's averaging a goal per sixty minutes played. There are a lot of options in Atlanta's attack, to say the least.

Martino will attempt to stretch the backline as much as he can. You'll see overlapping runs between Asad and Mikey Ambrose on the left and Villalba/Julian Gressel and Anton Walkes on the right. If Martinez does play, he'll be expected to make plenty of runs that, at the least, keep the center backs thinking. That will hopefully give Almiron space to operate along the box.

TBT: Atlanta are sitting above the red line in 5th place at the moment. Where will they finish the season? Do they have the legs to reach the holy grail of expansion teams and make the playoffs?

HK: I think they'll make the playoffs. It'll be important for Martinez and Greg Garza to return to full health, especially since we play eight matches in 23 days starting in September. Thankfully seven of those eight matches are at home, so travel won't be an issue. All eyes are now on our upcoming inaugural playoff push.

Dirty South Soccer Lineup Prediction

Ambrose, Pirez, Parkhurst, Walkes
Carmona, Larentowicz
Asad, Almiron, Villalba

They ask us...

Dirty South Soccer: Atlanta United played Orlando City and now former Sporting KC player Dom Dwyer last week. What were your thoughts on the trade?

Cody Bradley: It's definitely really tough to lose a fan favorite like Dom. Especially while in the midst of chasing multiple trophies this season! But after having more time to dissect the move, it feels like it was the right thing to do. Vermes sold him to the team who valued him the highest and it was simply too good of a deal to pass up.

They are running out of time to sign a replacement before August 9th, and that will upset a lot of people. But he wouldn't have made the move if he wasn't confident in the players he already has.

DSS: How does SKC fill a Dom Dwyer-sized void up top?

CB: While losing Dom is obviously a huge problem, the style of play from Vermes' men has shifted the last couple of years. A more patient, possession focused philosophy has taken over and it has not been as perfect of a fit for Dwyer. He hadn't scored an MLS goal since the beginning of May.

That is another reason Vermes' was not afraid to pull the trigger on this deal right now. He has a hoard of (admittedly unproven) talent he is ready to let loose. The offense was able to put up three goals last week in the first match without their longtime striker.

Diego Rubio slides right into the center of the attack. The 24 year old Chilean has shown plenty of promise and brings a style of play that is perhaps more fitting to this current SKC squad. Outside of him are two other youngsters in Daniel Salloi and Latif Blessing. But the two of them have already started scoring goals and have fans pretty excited.

DSS: SKC are bottom three in goals scored in the West this season, yet are top of the table. How?

CB: DEFENSE DEFENSE DEFENSE. The starting back line of Zusi, Opara, Besler, and Sinovic has been almost impenetrable. When something does get by them, the heroics in goal of Tim Melia save the day. Then in front of the back line they have Ilie Sanchez at holding mid. He prevents so much danger before it can even get to the defense and he relieves pressure when they win the ball.

They have been scoring just enough goals and then staying organized & focused to secure the result. Another large part of this season has been the return The Blue Hell. Children's Mercy Park has become a fortress once again, with SKC in the midst of a 20 match unbeaten run.

The Blue Testament Lineup Prediction

Melia, Zusi, Opara, Besler, Sinovic, Ilie, Espinoza, Feilhaber, Salloi, Rubio, Blessing