Sporting Kansas City travels to face second place Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night. With time running out for SKC to make a run at the playoffs, a result is pretty much a must for Peter Vermes’ side. Unfortunately for Sporting KC, it will be a much tougher task this time around than when they defeated the Sounders 3-2 in Kansas City at the end of May.
To get a feel for what to expect in the second match of the year between these two teams, I spoke with Mark Kastner of Sounder at Heart to get some info about the Sounders.
1. Seattle have won four of their last six MLS matches and have worked their way up to 2nd place in the West. Of course they’re one of the most talented teams in the league, but which player has been most instrumental to their success in 2019?
It’s not a fun or sexy answer, because it’s sort of obvious, but this team goes wherever Nicolas Lodeiro takes them. The Sounders have lost every game that Lodeiro hasn’t been in the lineup, besides a home match against Vancouver that needed a 96th minute winner for Seattle. Aside from that, this team is very reliant on Raul Ruidiaz to score goals, especially now that Will Bruin is out for the year with an ACL tear. I know it’s boring, but the Sounders need their two highest paid players to perform well if they want to be anything this year.
2. Johnny Russell earned a hat trick in Sporting KC’s 3-2 win over Seattle in KC back in May. Will Seattle change their approach defensively to try to account for Russell differently than they did last time?
I don’t think they’ll be changing their tactics because of Johnny Russell, but they’ll definitely be changing the starting left back. In the game in KC in May, Brad Smith started at LB. Smith is an incredible offensive weapon from the LB position, but his defense ranks at about average in terms of MLS fullbacks. He’s probably going to be out for this match. Enter Nouhou. The young Cameroonian LB is full of life and desire, and he can either be incredibly fun or insanely frustrating to watch depending on the day. He’s a much better defender than Smith, but lacks on the offensive side. Without the offensive responsibilities, he should be able to primarily focus on shutting down Russell.
3. Is there any particular position Seattle needs to try and upgrade before the summer window closes in an attempt to close the gap with first place LAFC? Any rumors about potential signings?
A starting #6 (like your Ilie Sanchez) has been a need for the Sounders since the departure of Ozzie Alonso this past off season. Gustav Svensson is good, but he’s getting up there in age and isn’t long for the MLS world. That position has been in the works for about a year now, in terms of finding the long term Ozzie replacement. Emanuel Cecchini, from Malaga (Spain), is a name that’s been linked heavily in the last couple of weeks. He’s a young Argentine midfielder who profiles as a little less aggressive version of Ozzie, but probably a better passer.
As of late, though, I would say a winger is the biggest need for the Sounders to address. On his day, Victor Rodriguez is very good, but the problem is the tiny Spaniard just can’t stay healthy. I am probably Harry Shipp’s biggest fan, but in a must win playoff game, I don’t think I want to see him start.