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SOCCER: AUG 27 MLS - San Jose Earthquakes at Sporting Kansas City

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Saturday’s Pitch Pit: Sporting Kansas City’s live wire v Minnesota United’s wily veteran

Who will blink?

Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sporting Kansas City’s match at Children’s Mercy Park Saturday night is a near-classic late season battle. “Near-classic” because Sporting’s playoff chances hang by a thread. But they are still alive. Their opponent, Minnesota United FC, is reeling after gaining only one point in their last four. That streak is not advised during a playoff fight. MNUFC sits in 5th right now with five teams within six points as they battle to finish in the top seven. Kansas City can certainly play spoiler while helping their own cause this night.

To put down a side that is reeling, gaining the first goal is a classic proactive push: Kick them when they are down and see their heads drop. Daniel Salloi? Erik Thommy? Willy Agada? Johnny Russell? Who is key to Sporting jumping on top and pushing the match?

Agada has cooled off lately with no goals in his last four appearances. That only means the multi-dimensional striker is due (more on that later). Willy Agada, meet Minnesota United center back Michael Boxall.

(Stats from mlssoccer.com, fbref.com, and americansocceranalysis.com)

Vitals

Vitals Ht Wt Age MLS Seas Base Salary
Vitals Ht Wt Age MLS Seas Base Salary
Willy Agada 5'9" 165 22 1st unknown
Michael Boxall 6'2" 201 34 8th 602,210

Wheres and What they Gots

Agada is a strong hold-up striker, a good facilitator, and an elusive mark near the box. The Nigerian will be seen in his team’s own end at times and all over the middle channel in the opposition’s while playing the critical middle-man upfront in Kansas City’s 4-3-3.

Boxall lines up on the right side in the center of United’s usual four-man backline. Big picture, MNUFC runs out a 4-2-3-1 setup. Boxall is a wily veteran of not only eight MLS seasons, but also 32 caps with the New Zealand National Team.

Telling Stats

Stats Int Duel % KP Pass% xG G g+
Stats Int Duel % KP Pass% xG G g+
Willy Agada 1 59.3 6 79 5.06 5 1.21
Michael Boxall 42 46.2 3 85 1.07 0 -0.28

Agada has two assists to go with his five goals. That combination in 648 minutes means Agada tops Sporting, by far, with 0.97 goals+assists per 90 minutes per fbref.com.

Boxall ain’t having that. The University of California at Santa Barbara grad leads Minnesota in blocks and is second in interceptions.

Latelies

In Agada’s four-match scoreless streak, his expected goals was 1.7 according to mlssoccer.com. Frankly, I expected his xG to be higher. Sporting’s live wire has missed some admittedly challenging opportunities for headed goals.

Boxall has been in the middle of a defense that allowed three goals in each of two recent matches against Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas. Then, that same defense allowed only one each in two recent matches against Portland Timbers and Los Angeles Football Club.

Ink Links

Sporting Kansas City Livin’ Willy Style – Agada smile - The Blue Testament

Football: Big names confirmed in All Whites team to face Australia - NZ Herald

Tactics

The scouting report on Minnesota is that significant open space can be found between their defensive lines.

As left-sided attackers Ben Sweat (or Logan Ndenbe), Andreu Fontas, and Daniel Salloi purposefully overload the left side and Erik Thommy charges into midfield space in front of the 18-yard box, Agada’s movement will help create even more of that space. Then, Agada’s elusiveness, aided by his change of pace, will give him time to pick out the net.

Perception. Exploitation. Decimation.

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Podcast

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