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We are Family for Sporting Kansas City in tonight’s Pitch Pit

It will take a village to shut down Austin FC.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Austin FC Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Lock down. Shut down. Take down. You’re busted. In tonight’s Sporting Kansas City match at Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium (8:00 match time, 8:08 KO), Sporting will have to lockdown a substantial Austin FC attack led by top MVP candidate and MLS’s current top goal scorer Sebastian Driussi, striker Max Urruti, and midfielder Alex Ring, who has two goals and two assists in the four matches between the two Western Conference combatants. Maybe “take down” is accurate (I do not condone violence, but I do appreciate the value in some “bottle” being on display.).

Who is most important to shut down? Who should Sporting key on to help level or turn the tables on the current 7-4 goals scored advantage Austin FC has in the four-game series? Maybe the guy who has 10 assists on the season for Austin FC. Ten assists – it would take adding together Sporting KC’s Cam Duke (3) and Felipe Hernandez (3) and Daniel Salloi (3) and Remi Walter’s (1) assist totals to equal midfielder Diego Fagundez’s 10 assists for Austin FC.

But who will be tasked with shutting down the left-sided playmaker? Veteran Graham Zusi or “rookie” Kayden Pierre? I don’t know KC Manager Peter Vermes’ plan, so let’s go with midfielder/right back, Michigan-born, Florida-raised “Kayam Zuierre (zoo-ear).” He has the athleticism and the inherent/experience-driven soccer IQ to bust Fagundez from the score sheet. I jest, of course, but it would be nice to combine the abilities of the two Kansas City right backs into a hybrid… I am calling that Vermes goes with Zusi.

Vitals

Vitals Ht Wt Age MLS Seas Base Salary
Vitals Ht Wt Age MLS Seas Base Salary
Graham Zusi 5'10" 161 35 15th 450,000
Diego Fagundez 5'8" 141 27 12th 450,000

Wheres and What they Gots

A staple in Sporting’s lineup since 2011, Zusi, a former winger/attacking midfielder, lines up at right back in Kansas City’s 4-3-3. Zusi sports the deftest touch on the team (watch him in warmups for some fun) and miles of experience with 55 caps for the U.S. National Team.

Fagundez is a former Uruguayan youth international (he lived there through age five) who has seemingly been in MLS forever, yet he is only 27 years old. The in-his-prime midfielder/winger lines up on the left in Coach Josh Wolff’s 4-2-3-1 formation and fills it with insightful vision and some flair.

Telling Stats

Stats Int Duel % KP Pass% xG G g+
Stats Int Duel % KP Pass% xG G g+
Graham Zusi 18 58.7 7 80.8 0.35 1 0.55
Diego Fagundez 9 46.2 33 85.7 2.51 5 -1.66

An interesting stat is goals added (g+). Despite Fagundez’s gaudy assist and key pass stats, his g+ is in the negative and lower than Zusi’s.

Zusi is 3rd on Kansas City in dribble percentage and his 58.7 duel percentage tops the team for those with greater than 700 minutes played this season.

Fagundez stands 4th in tackles with 14 for Austin. He is third with 40 turnovers; a fact that only highlights that the former New England Revolution man spends a lot of time on the ball.

Latelies

Zusi defended well against the LA Galaxy last Saturday in Sporting’s 4-2 win while adding one key pass and three accurate long balls that provided balance in Kansas City’s effective attack. As a result, Zusi earned the fifth highest player rating from whoscored.com.

Fagundez garnered a 7.1 rating from whoscored.com and passed at a 90% accuracy rate last time Austin played Sporting KC July 30th at Children’s Mercy Park.

Ink Links

Fagundez Earns MLS Team of the Week Honors | Austin FC - 3rd selection of season

Graham Zusi named to MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi | Sporting Kansas City (sportingkc.com)

Tactics

Well, Zusi has a humorous take on the attacking talent entering MLS…

And the veteran will likely spend a lot of time defending tonight as Austin FC attacked KC’s right side often last time as the passing network exhibits:

Fagundez will want to turn inside to face the field more to play to others like Driussi and Urruti. In order for Zusi to win this pitch pit and turn the match in Sporting’s favor, he will need help from the defensive midfielder and his wing partner (likely Remi Walter and Johnny Russell), as well as right center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin. That is the problem with players like Fagundez and Driussi… it takes a village.

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