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SKC v HOU: Three Questions

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We exchanged questions with our sister blog in Houston ahead of Saturday’s MLS match between the Houston Dynamo & Sporting KC.

MLS: Western Conference Knockout Round-Sporting KC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City welcomes the Houston Dynamo on Saturday so I got with Derek Stowers from over at Dynamo Theory, to gain some intel on this classic match-up.

Here are your Three Questions But Really Six:

We ask them...

Cody Bradley: Houston had a rough start but has been winning a lot of games as of late. How have they turned things around?

Derek Stowers: The Dynamo have been pretty up and down in terms of form and results all season. There are a lot of factors playing into this, but injuries have been one thing that’s hurt them specifically because they’ve been predominantly in defensive or defensive midfield positions. The Dynamo are an offensive team first and since our attacking players have been healthy, we’re still scoring goals. Our defense on the other hand has been hit hard by the injury bug. The added pressure on players who are younger, don’t have as much chemistry with the team, or are playing out of position has led to some big mistakes at the back which has had an impact on the results. Where we’ve seen some of the up ticks in form have been where players return or Wilmer Cabrera found a way to plug a player into a spot that worked out such as Andrew Wenger at right back or Kevin Garcia in central defense. Hopefully the brief break from the World Cup has let players rest and heal up for the summer.

CB: These two clubs are quite familiar with each other at this point. Is there any player SKC fans should learn about? Or give us a fun fact about the Dynamo we might not know!

DS: Our attacking players should be watched the most in Mauro Manotas, Romell Quioto, Alberth Elis, and Tomas Martinez. So much speed on the wings along with creativity from Quioto and Martinez. Apart from these, newcomer Alejandro Fuenmayor has come in as a young center back. He’s still prone to mistakes at times defensively, but he’s grown quickly and is also a target for set pieces as he’s scored 2 goals in 8 league appearances.

CB: Being matched up for the 4th year in a row in the US Open Cup, what is your opinion of the Regional format?

DS: I think it’s generally a good thing. It increases local rivalries for future fixtures and makes access to games easier for traveling supporters. Not everyone can share the same enthusiasm for the USOC as Peter Vermes, but I thought it was very cool to see the Dynamo play NTX Rayados, a amateur side from North Texas.

Dynamo Theory Predictions

Projected Lineup
4-3-3: Joe Willis; DaMarcus Beasley, Leonardo, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Adam Lundqvist; Eric Alexander, Tomas Martinez, Oscar Boniek Garcia; Romell Quioto, Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis

Predicted Outcome:
2-2 draw


They ask us...

DS: Last season a big struggle for Sporting Kansas City had been getting wins on the road. Already SKC has more away wins than they did in the 2017 season. What’s helped them turn around their form away from Children’s Mercy Park?

CB: Honestly, this team is just way better than last season. SKC was pretty one dimensional and lacked an ability to finish. But in the off-season Peter Vermes brought in talent all over the pitch and this team now has versatility, creativity and multiple paths to goal. With technical players all over the field, (including outside backs who are converted midfielders/attackers) Sporting Kansas City is able to control possession and dictate the way a match is played.

The organization and system from Vermes also deserves credit. If you do not know your role inside and out, and if you are not able to stay focused for every second of the 90+ then you will simply not get on the field.

DS: Tied with FC Dallas, SKC has the best defense in terms of goals allowed and have one of the best offenses in the league in goals finished. How have they been so dominant on both sides of the ball?

CB: As for the defense, having the Goalkeeper of the Year goes a long ways. They give up chances like any other team, but Tim Melia has a knack for bailing them out. As I mentioned this team is very technical all over the field. They’re good on defense because the other team doesn’t get the ball very much. And don’t forget that Ike Opara, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler (3/4ths of the backline) have played together basically their whole careers. In front of them stands one of the best midfielders in MLS, Ilie Sanchez. The work he does to win possession, break up plays and relieve pressure is just incredible.

The attacking end has been a lot of fun to watch. Felipe Gutierrez has been out but chipped in five goals in a few games at the beginning of the season. Without him, wingers Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi have stepped up to make this offense tick. Russell is gives defenses fits and runs directly at them every chance he gets. He causes problems, he wins corner kicks, and creates opportunity. Salloi has a deadly, quick shot that is really tough to defend. The problem for teams is that they are scoring by committee. It is too difficult to focus on shutting down one player as it opens things up for someone else.

DS: Earlier this week SKC bested Dallas in the US Open Cup. Peter Vermes takes his US Open Cups pretty seriously, so what kind of adjustments might he make following with a shorter than usual turnaround?

CB: The Dallas match was actually last Saturday, so it will be a normal week and we are expecting Vermes to put out his best lineup. That is a question however, as the team is dealing with several injuries at the moment. Matt Besler is working his way back from injury so we might see the young Argentinian, Emiliano Amor. Another question is at left-back. 18-year-old Jaylin Lindsey has been impressing, but Vermes could opt for the veteran and defensive acumen of Seth Sinovic.

DS: Bonus World Cup Question: What World Cup squad does SKC most resemble?

CB: That’s tough. I’ll go with Croatia. SKC has good players, and a couple well known names. But they don’t just rely on expensive players pure brilliance to lift them. They are well coached, organized and have a game plan. Like Croatia, Sporting will never be talked about the same way as LA (Brazil) and New York (Germany), but they can beat them at anytime. Nobody WANTS to play Croatia. Also.. awesome kits.

The Blue Testament Predictions

Lineup
Melia, Zusi, Opara, Amor, Sinovic, Ilie, Espinoza, Croizet, Salloi, Shelton, Russell

Score
Sporting KC 3-2 Houston Dynamo