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May 8, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Sounders FC vs. Sporting Kansas City, preview and prediction

Sporting Kansas City LogoSounders FC (1-3-3) vs. Sporting Kansas City (5-3-2)
Wednesday, May 8, 5:30 p.m., Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan.
TV: KONG 6/16 (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
English radio: None
Spanish TV/radio: THIS-TV (KOMO 4.2), La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Geoff Gamble

KEY SPORTING KC PLAYERS

F/M Graham Zusi — The maestro of the K.C. attack has four assists, which is tied for the MLS lead this season. And you can expect he’ll be there at the end as he’s always creating chances, either from set-piece service or the run of play. His meteoric rise within the league the past few years has also led to a bigger role with the U.S. national team.

F Claudio Bieler — MLS’s most productive new addition is tied atop the league scoring list with six goals in 10 games, and three of those are game-winners. The 29-year-old designated player has dual citizenship (Argentina and Ecuador) and scored twice Sunday in a 4-0 rout of Chivas USA after having gone three games without a goal.

GK  Jimmy Nielsen — The reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year is off to another strong start in 2013. His six shutouts are a league best and a 0.80 goals-against average isn’t shabby either. He isn’t called upon to make too many saves with a strong defense in front of him, but did earn the league’s shutout streak so far this season at 546 minutes.

KEY MATCHUPS

Eddie Johnson vs. Aurelien Collin — Seattle forward Obafemi Martins isn’t expected to be ready for this one as he continues to recover from the knee issue. KC center back Matt Besler, the reigning MLS Defender of the Year, might also miss the game with a knee injury. That will put added focus on these two powerful guys when the Sounders are in the offensive third, and it might get chippy.

Brad Evans vs. Oriol Rossell — If the Sounders are going to control a good part of the game against KC’s three-man midfield, I’m expecting Evans will have to have a big game in the middle of the park. He’ll be helped by the return of Osvaldo Alonso behind him and will likely tangle with the home team’s product from Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy.

Short rest vs. short rest and travel — The Sounders got an extra day off leading into this one having played Saturday while KC played Sunday. Seattle did have to travel, though, and staying in a hotel is different than sleeping in your own bed. Sigi Schmid felt the impact would be about even, but the teams will probably need to dip into depth a bit. Suspension and injuries were already going to make that the case for the visitors.

PREDICTION

Surprising, it may seem, that Seattle has dominated this series since the end of the 2009 season. The Sounders are on a 5-0-1 run head-to-head, which includes three-straight wins on the road.

That said, even if Seattle was at full strength, I think many fans might have penciled this game in as a loss. KC has become a perennial power in the league and is especially strong at home.

Not sure I see the Sounders getting anything out of this one…

Sporting Kansas City 3, Sounders FC 1

SKC — CJ Sapong (Benny Feilhaber) 9′
SEA — Zach Scott (Mario Martinez) 45′
SKC — Claudio Bieler (pk) 58′
SKC — Kei Kamara (un) 90′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?

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