Chivas USA host another opponent for the first time in 2014 on Friday, as Sporting Kansas City come to town for the first time in two seasons. Although Sporting are MLS Cup champs, they enter this game at their lowest point, having lost four in a row. In order to get a sense of what's happening in KC ahead of the game, we spoke to Ben Gartland of SB Nation Sporting KC blog The Blue Testament about his team. Many thanks to Ben for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks The Blue Testament:
1. Sporting Kansas City are of course MLS Cup champions, and weathered the absence of World Cup stars Graham Zusi and Matt Besler pretty well this summer. But instead of having a blip or two along the way, Sporting are on their first real slide in quite some time. What's going on, and why has the tide turned in Kansas City lately?
Well, that's the thing: we don't know what's going on. The defense has been completely turned on its head with Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic and Aurelien Collin, normally rocks in the back line, not playing up to standard. The offense has been more or less the same but when a team gives up two or three goals like Sporting has the past few games, it's hard to overcome that. A question has to be asked if exhaustion is playing a factor in this, considering Sinovic has played nearly every game this season, Besler went straight from the World Cup to the club and our defensive depth has taken such a hit this year that spot starts are rare to be seen. One hopeful sign for Sporting KC was their 2-1 loss to New York where it looked like the defense was improved, just seemed like a normal loss to a good attacking team. We'll see if that performance carries over to the Chivas match.
2. One of the hallmarks of SKC's success is their depth. Please highlight a player or two who has emerged this season amidst all of the absences and injuries.
Lawrence Olum has earned a lot of criticism this year, most of it warranted, but he has been able to step into a very tough position. After Uri Rosell transferred to Sporting Lisbon, Olum had to step in as the starting defensive midfielder. Taking Rosell's spot, a spot that takes extreme importance in Peter Vermes' system, is no small feat and Olum has been serviceable. He's made some mistakes but he's been decent overall, especially considering the other depth players who have had to take over starting roles, such as Igor Juliao, who is proving to be a big defensive liability on the left side. In the few games we've seen them, Andy Gruenebaum and Jon Kempin have also played well in goal but Olum's contributions in the midfield have been a huge necessity for the club.
3. From a selfish perspective, what's the talk around Sporting surrounding this game? Are they worried of dropping another game, or ready to crush Chivas?
There's about two different groups surrounding this match. The first camp is looking forward to this game, thinking that going up against Chivas will be a catalyst into getting the team back on track and ready to push through the home stretch of the season. The other group is worried that Sporting KC will go in and drop this game, landing the club into full panic mode. Neither side is particularly flattering to Chivas. I'm a little bit of both, thinking that this is a match Sporting KC should win but Chivas does have weapons that can take advantage of a struggling defense.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for this match?
I'm gonna go with 2-1 Sporting KC.
Gruenebaum; Juliao, Collin, Besler, Sinovic; Olum, Lopez, Feilhaber; Dovale, Dwyer, Zusi.
Read my answers to Ben's questions here.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!