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How You Doin' Sporting Kansas City? Meeting the Third.

In advance of Toronto FC's third and final match against Sporting KC this weekend I exchanged questions with Ben Gartland over at the fantastically named SKC blog, The Daily Wiz.

Can Joe "Super Pickle" Bendik make the big saves on Bieler at BMO?
Can Joe "Super Pickle" Bendik make the big saves on Bieler at BMO?

As Toronto limps its way to the end of another fruitless season they are still forced to play their remaining games.  Up next is perennial playoff power Sporting KC.  Bright side? Kei Kamara's gone back to England never to taunt us again.  Not so bright side? Everyone else that plays for SKC. Ben over at the Daily Wiz was good enough to answer my questions about Kei, that less than stellar strike rate on the road and that pesky game against Real Esteli.  So, Sporting KC, How You Doin'?

Waking The Red: Wednesday's game didn't go exactly as planned for SKC - Real Esteli almost got away with the win. What brought about this rather surprising turn of events? Vermes chose to not really rest any of his regulars, but other than the heroic (tongue very firmly in cheek) efforts of one Jacob Peterson it could have been a shocker.

The Daily Wiz: Honestly, I have no idea what happened in that game. It was an embarrassing performance on our home turf. What I have realized is that Sporting KC has trouble scoring against teams who put eight or more guys behind the ball and play back the entire match. However Sporting was still able to put a 2-0 result on them on the road when they were using the same tactics. For some reason, Sporting has very poor home form where they will go out and play down several levels and get out of the game with maybe a point.

The whole team was certainly off that night. That can't happen after a weekend off.

WTR: You've got one of the league's top two stingiest defenses - both at home and on the road. However the goals don't seem to flow as freely away from home. As a high scoring team what's the difference once away from the cozy confines of Sporting Park?

TDW: As stated above, there are several teams who will play most of their squad behind the ball on the road to try and curb Sporting's aggressive, attacking style. The problem with that is that Peter Vermes has not figured out how to consistently beat that style. We'll got locked into a frustrating battle and end up drawing with DC United or Chicago. On the road I think teams are more comfortable playing their own style of soccer, which leads to more scoring opportunities for Sporting.

WTR: So Kei Kamara is off again - is this finally the end of his time with SKC? Clearly you've got lots of talented goal-scorers; any concern at all about goal production going forward without him?

TDW: This is most certainly his final season with Sporting KC unless he comes back later in his career. I don't think we'll have too much of a problem scoring without him since the focus will once again be on Claudio Bieler. Before Kamara came back in May, Sporting's offense revolved around getting the ball to Bieler in the box and having him finish strong. Once Kamara came back, he became an aerial threat in the box and could be at the end of runs due to his speed. He kind of stole some chances away from Bieler, not that I'm complaining of course, given Sporting's record.

I see Bieler becoming more of the focus and with the rise of Soony Saad on the wing and the emergence of Benny Feilhaber as a serviceable midfielder, I see no reason why Sporting won't be able to score goals.

WTR: Predicted lineup and score?

TDW: (4-3-3)
Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Nagamura, Rosell, Feilhaber, Saad, Bieler, Zusi.

Score- 1-0 Sporting KC.

Thanks very much Ben.  Check out my answers to his questions over at The Daily Wiz.