Kansas City Wizards (9-11-6, third in East, clinging to playoff hopes)
Head coach: Peter Vermes, 2nd year
Last week: Lost at New York 1-0
Last year: 8-13-9, finished well out of playoff hunt
KEY WIZARDS PLAYERS
M/F Kei Kamara — After getting into a disagreement of sorts with Sierra Leone national team officials, K.C.’s leading scorer will be with his club this weekend instead of being on int’l duty. Ten goals and five assists should give you an idea of the impact he can have.
GK Jimmy Nielsen — One of the top newcomers in the league and certainly one of the better shot stoppers you’ll see in MLS. His 76 saves this season are near the top and several of them come in spectacular fashion. Can he save the home side a time or two?
F Teal Bunbury — The rookie has been getting more time recently and I’ll go out on a limb and predict he starts. An ex-Akron teammate of Steve Zakuani, the target man had six shots last week in a loss to the Red Bulls. Could be developing into a standout.
K.C. winger Ryan Smith v. Sounders FC defender James Riley — Smith, an Arsenal academy product, is clearly an above-average talent and dangerous on the left wing for the Wizards. Riley has also been known to shut down a guy or two so this should be a fun battle to watch.
Sounders FC forward Blaise Nkufo v. K.C. defender Jimmy Conrad — Seattle’s designated player is playing at a high, high level. Who knows? With three solid games, he might even work his way into the Newcomer of the Year voting. Conrad is the veteran in the back with a tough assignment.
CommunityAmerica’s small field v. Sounders FC wide play — Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said the dimensions at the K.C. ballpark are the most difficult thing to handle. With the narrow field, Zakuani and Nyassi’s time to make decisions will be cut down. But with a short field they could be on goal more easily. We’ll see how it goes.
For the third-straight week Seattle faces a desperate MLS opponent. Hasn’t bothered ’em too much. It’s really hard these days to look past the Sounders’ incredible form (and in all uniform combinations too: rave green, blue, electricity yellow).
Needing a point to clinch a playoff, I expect to see nothing less than a first-team lineup from the visitors despite the short rest. They can get a break during the friendly while the young guys play.
In the end, I see a bit of a shootout.
Sounders FC 2, Kansas City 2
KC: Arnaud (un) 14′
SEA: Montero (Nkufo) 44′
SEA: Nyassi (Montero) 57′
KC: Kamara (Smith) 79′