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March 8, 2014 at 8:20 AM

Sounders FC vs. Sporting Kansas City, preview and prediction

Sounders FC vs. Sporting Kansas City
Saturday, March 8, 12 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
National TV: NBC Sports Network (John Strong, Kyle Martino, Russ Thaler)
Local radio: 97.3 FM/SiriusXM FC (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish radio: ESPN Deportes 1490 AM
Referee: Alan Kelly

KEY SPORTING KC PLAYERS

M Graham Zusi — Selected No. 23 overall in the second round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, believe it or not. Now he’s one of the faces of the league and in great position to make the U.S. World Cup team. He’s got 30 goals and 16 assists in the past three years, including 15 assists in a breakout 2012 season. Might be a tough assignment for Dylan Remick if Leo Gonzalez isn’t able to go.

D Aurelien Collin — The French center back is a lightning rod on the field. In the MLS Cup, many felt he could’ve been sent off with a red card and then he comes back to score the second-half equalizer en route to winning in a shootout. He has scored three goals in each season in the league, pretty impressive.

GK Eric Kronberg — Jimmy Nielsen might not have been the most popular goalkeeper leaguewide, but the 2012 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year did set a decent measure of success (sure, he looked his age in the MLS Cup, but he came up big when the game was on the line). Kronberg, 30, has started four league games. Is he ready?

KEY MATCHUPS

Obafemi Martins vs. Matt Besler — Two of the league’s best at their position will go at it. Besler, like Zusi, is another guy who somewhat remarkably has entrenched himself in the USMNT in a short period of time. Martins will have to rely on service from a new-look squad behind him, so we’ll see how in sync the Seattle attack is.

Brad Evans vs. Paulo Nagamura — I’m anticipating Evans will start in the middle with Clint Dempsey presumably not ready to start following his quick turnaround. In the middle of midfielder, he’ll face of number of challenges, and many of his duels will likely come against KC’s Spaniard for control of the ball and run of play.

The pride of 2013 vs. the disappointment of 2013 — Seattle coach Sigi Schmid put it well this week. He said, “I know they’re going into the game with the attitude of saying, ‘Hey, we’re the team, and we’re going to be every bit as good as last year.’ And we’re going in with the attitude of, ‘Last year was last year, and this is what we’re all about.’” What more needs to be said?

PREDICTION

The Sounders have won one of their last 10 MLS games. That’s ancient history, as long as Seattle wins. A disappointing result is only going to bring back memories of things going wrong.

There is no doubting these are two of the elite teams in the league, and the Sounders look to have an edge on the injury front. For Kansas City, midfielder Paulo Nagamura (ankle), and defenders Chance Myers groin) and Seth Sinovic (hip) are listed as questionable. The Sounders are pretty healthy, though, with Tristan Bowen (quad) the only guy ruled out and Leo Gonzalez (groin) a little less than 100 percent.

I think there will be a sense of urgency to Seattle’s game, which will meld well with a home crowd of 40,000 urging on the team on.

The majority of the MLSsoccer.com’s pick ‘em crew favors the guys in green, and I’m with them.

Sounders FC 2, Sporting Kansas City 1

SEA — Obafemi Martins (Marco Pappa) 41′
SEA — Lamar Neagle (un) 70′
KC — Dom Dwyer (Benny Feilhaber) 79′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see it playing out?

| More in Preview and prediction

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