With the first game of the 2019 season right around the corner, it’s time to welcome back Three Questions!
Los Angeles Football Club will host Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on Sunday, and before that, we found a few spare minutes to talk to Thad Bell of SB Nation’s Sporting KC site The Blue Testament. Sporting have already cruised in their opening Concacaf Champions League series, so we asked about that, a big departure, and more. Thanks to Thad for taking the time to answer my questions.
Angels on Parade asks The Blue Testament:
1. Sporting are off to a good start in Concacaf Champions League and look fully ready for the season. Was the opening series against Toluca a bit of good luck against a weaker opponent or is Sporting all systems go to start the season?
I want to jump on the Sporting KC is better than all of Liga MX bandwagon (not that I know anyone saying that yet) but truthfully it is a combination of things. Toluca is in a terrible bad run of form right now. Disorganized, demoralized and dejected with no leadership and a fan base that has turned on them. Sporting KC caught them at the best time possible considering it is their first competitive games of the year. With that being said, SKC is doing a lot right. A short offseason meant not a lot of fitness lost, a roster built over multiple years to be deep for this season, a plan and identity in place and players that buy into that plan and identity.
So I am going to waffle a bit and say it is a bit of both but it is good to hang a 5-0 aggregate on a Liga MX team.
2. Ike Opara is a really good defender who Sporting traded away in the offseason. Who is replacing him this year?
Andreu Fontas was signed in the summer window last year and only made one start and one sub appearance with Opara and Matt Besler having such a good partnership. He was picked up to help the team in CCL this year and will be a big part of the team in all games in 2019. Fontas was a team mate of Ilie Sanchez at Barcelona B, helping them get promoted to the second division. He also made over 100 appearances with Celta in La Liga so he has the experience to play well for SKC. With Peter Vermes changing SKC to a more possession team, his ability on the ball and relationship with Ilie has already paid off. It will be interesting how SKC does with him and Besler at CB though. Both of them are lefties and better passers than Opara was, but neither of them have the same recovery speed of Opara and could get burned on some counters.
3. What makes you nervous about SKC coming into the season?
I am not as worried about the No. 9 spot as I was before but Krisztian Nemeth is still a question. Can he score and combine the way SKC wants for full season? So far he is off to a great start in CCL and preseason. The previously mentioned loss of Opara is a concern but probably the biggest worry would be a backup for Ilie. SKC has a ton of depth at almost every spot. With as good as Ilie is for SKC there is no replacement near his level at the moment. Wan Kuzain is young and is the closest to his style and ability but it would be a big drop. Other than injuries to a player or two it is just the congestion and focus it takes to compete in so many different directions at once that can lead to bad form.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for Sunday’s match?
I hate predictions.... Right now it is hard to tell if Vermes will use a lot of the same guys from the CCL games or go with his depth. With the best lineup I feel good about getting a result. LAFC is good and will be a challenge. They will be more dangerous than Toluca was so it will be hard to maintain a clean sheet. I am going to go with a 2-2 result.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!