Once more, into the abyss... (CREDIT: Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
One more meeting with Sporting Kansas City, and this time the Midwesterners are without three major pieces, two of which we know are rather averse to Canada (and I'm not taking about Aurelien Collin, who will miss the game for getting five yellow cards). We traded a few questions with Justin Mayhugh over at The Daily Wiz, one last time for 2012...
John Leung (JL): Teal Bunbury is out for the rest of the season. What does this mean for Sporting KC, and who does the pressure fall to produce for him?
Justin Mayhugh (JM): Basically it means that last season’s MLS Rookie of the Year, CJ Sapong, is now the man at center forward for Sporting Kansas City. Before the Bunbury injury, you could never be too sure on who Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes would be slotting in at center forward (although as of late Vermes opted to go with Teal).
In the past, Vermes usually rode whichever striker had the hot hand, whether that was Bunbury or Sapong. Now with Bunbury out for the rest of the season, I imagine Sapong will be the starter at center forward for the majority of the team’s remaining games. Behind Sapong, Soony Saad is really the only center forward that has some sort of experience playing in Vermes’ system, and Saad has only played in 13 matches for Sporting.
So, needless to say, losing Bunbury was a pretty big loss. There are other players that could potentially play the striker position. Jacob Peterson will be returning back to action soon (he’s been dealing with a shoulder sprain), and he could probably fit in up top if need be, and Kei Kamara has experience playing center forward, although I’m not sure Vermes would want to take Kei from the right wing, where he has been very good for Kansas City this season.
In short, I think we’ll see a steady dose of Sapong for the rest of the year, and cross our fingers that he can stay healthy, although Sapong has been dealing with an abductor strain in his right leg, so I don’t think he’s 100 percent. He’s close, but not fully healthy.
More with Justin after the jump...
JL: Adding to that, Aurelien Collin will be missing due to yellow card accumulation. How will that affect the lineup?
JM: It’ll definitely be interesting to see. Aurelien also missed the US Open Cup Final due to yellow card accumulation, and Lawrence Olum was able to fill in quite nicely for that match, although there have been times in the past when Matt Besler was out due to injury, and Olum looked rather shaky. Missing Collin for Saturday’s match will hurt a bit, but Besler has been the MVP of the Sporting KC backline this season, and one of the things Matt does extremely well is cover for his center back partner.
When Collin pairs up with Besler, Collin is usually quite aggressive, and more willing to go higher up the pitch to take on the offense. Besler is more apt to stay back as a last line of defense in the center, and to cover for Aurelien. Olum isn’t near as aggressive as Collin, but it’s nice knowing that Besler is there if Olum were to make a mistake or two, which he has been prone to do on occasion.
JL: With all the talk right now of a potential departure of Roger Espinoza, what can KC do if he chooses to leave? How will that affect the future of SKC?
JM: I wrote a piece on The Daily Wiz a couple of days ago dealing with a potential Espinoza transfer, and what the club’s options might be, but I can easily sum it up with a condensed version of that article:
In my opinion, Sporting Kansas City doesn’t have a player on their squad that would be able to replicate what Roger does for this team. He gives 110 percent for 90 minutes, he wins possession, and I’d say he’s a very good destroyer and box to box type player. Espinoza is a potential MVP for Sporting Kansas City in 2012. Losing Roger in this transfer window might be good for Sporting’s pocket book, but I don’t think any good will come in regards to results on the field.
And by saying that it would be good for Sporting’s pocket book, I don’t mean to make it sound like the club would like to cash in on Espinoza. They’ve already made it very clear that they are willing to do whatever it takes (a potential DP tag) to try and keep Roger in MLS. I just think the transfer fee would be pretty nice, if a deal were to go through, and having financial flexibility is always a good thing. I think the most likely lineup if Espinoza were to leave, would be a mid field trio of Graham Zusi, Paulo Nagamura, and Julio Cesar. In it’s self, that’s not too shabby of a trio in Vermes’ 4-3-3 system, but ideally, a lineup of Zusi, Espinoza, and probably Nagamura would be Peter Vermes’ midfield.
JL: Given what's at stake for this game for Sporting, what will Peter Vermes be thinking, and what will he have in store for TFC?
JM: I think Peter will probably try and do what he seems to always want to do every match, which is create a ton of pressure on the opposition, and dominate possession.
Vermes almost always uses a 4-3-3 formation; Lineup wise, Jimmy Nielsen is always in goal for Sporting, and the back line will most likely consist of right back Chance Myers, left back Seth Sinovic, and a center back pairing of Matt Besler and Lawrence Olum.
In the midfield I think we'll see Roger Espinoza (if he's still with the team), Paulo Nagamura, and Julio Cesar. At the forward position, I imagine we'll see Sapong up top with Kei Kamara and Graham Zusi playing out wide. I think Vermes knows that this is somewhat of a "must win" match if Kansas City want to finish in first place in the Eastern Conference, and make a run at the Supporters’ Shield.
At this point, Sporting can’t really afford to drop points at home. They dropped two points last weekend against the New York Red Bulls at home. Sporting KC dominated the majority of that game, but ultimately were unable to finish the Red Bulls off, with the match ending in a 1-1 draw. Sporting KC still has to go to New York two more times this season, and the Red Bulls have yet to lose there, so I’m of the opinion that Kansas City needs to pick up maximum points at home if they want to stay ahead of New York.