Know Your Enemy: Sporting Kansas City

Shutting down Zusi key to getting a result at Sporting Park

The season rolls on for FC Dallas as the team heads into a Week Two match with the defending MLS Cup Champions Sporting Kansas City.

SKC is coming off a season-opening loss to Seattle Sounders FC last week. Seattle got a goal in the final minutes of that match from Chad Barrett. Sporting responded in the middle of the week however with a 1-0 win in the CONCACAF Champions League against Mexican side Cruz Azul.

Last year, these two sides met only once with FC Dallas earning a late draw at home. Walker Zimmerman came off the bench and helped secure the 2-2 result with his goal in the 90th minute.

FC Dallas has not won a game in the second week of the season since 2007, going 0-3-3 in that span. FCD is 8-11-5 all-time in Kansas City with a 1-1-0 record at Sporting Park.

Injury Watch

Peter Vermes’ club doesn’t have any long term injuries to discuss right now, but he does have a couple players that could be questionable for this weekend. Midfielder Pablo Nagamura is dealing with an ankle injury while defenders Seth Sinovic and Chance Myers are both battling injuries of their own.

Both Nagamura and Sinovic played the full 90 against Cruz Azul on Wednesday.

Champions League update

Sporting KC had several starters go the full 90 on Wednesday in their Champions League quarterfinal win over Cruz Azul. Vermes will have to get creative with his lineup as his club enters its third game in eight days.

SKC was without Aurelien Collin for the Wednesday night match while the Frenchman was serving a suspension. Expect him to be available for Vermes this Saturday.

Key Matchups

Blas Perez vs Matt Besler – The two battled it out nicely in the 2-2 draw last June in Frisco. The United States national team defender will have to find ways to keep Perez off the ball in space.

Dom Dwyer vs Matt Hedges - With Claudio Beiler playing the full 90 on Wednesday in the CCL, Dwyer may be the change that Vermes looks to make in the starting XI. Dwyer looks like a new player these days thanks to the loans he got last season to Orlando.

Key Player for Sporting KC

Graham Zusi – The offense for SKC runs through this man. If FCD has any shot at shutting down the Sporting attack, they first have to make sure that Zusi doesn’t see a ton of the ball. They also have to be sure not to allow too many set piece opportunities as Zusi is typically the man in charge of those as well.

Projected Lineup

Vermes uses a 4-3-3 set up for his formation. We should see a bit of a mix between his last two lineups for this match.

Goalkeeper: Eric Kronberg; RB: Kevin Ellis; CB: Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin; LB: Josh Gardner; RM: Graham Zusi; CM: Oriol Rosell; LM: Benny Feilhaber; RW: CJ Sapong; LW: Jacob Peterson; FW: Dom Dwyer

Keys to three points

Sporting KC under Vermes is never an easy match. They love to play with pace and with relentless pressure from the strikers all the way down to the defenders.

This won’t be a simple game for FCD on Saturday, as Sporting will be celebrating their MLS Cup title in their home opener for the regular season. Emotions will likely be high for them as they look to rebound from their Week One loss at Seattle.

FCD has to do a few things to keep this game in their favor. For starters, they have to limit the set piece chances for Sporting. Zusi does an excellent job of finding his big players in the penalty box in those situations. Collin and Besler do a good job of distributing the play on set pieces and finding ways to get a head on the ball, which typically leads to a goal.

The game will likely be won for FCD in the midfield. If they can spread Sporting out and make them chase the game from the wings, there will be more chances for guys like Mauro Diaz and Perez to get on the ball. Dallas has to take advantage of the fact that this is the third game in eight days for Sporting.

Lastly, FCD has to be smart in defense with their passing. Sporting does a good job of putting pressure on the opposing team’s defense and they tend to pick apart sloppy passes.