One of the hottest Major League Soccer matchups of this weekend has to be Sporting Kansas City’s trip north of the border to take on Sebastian Giovinco and Toronto FC. Toronto currently occupy the third spot in the Eastern Conference, but they have three games-in-hand on first place DC United with ten points separating them. The visitors have rebounded from a disappointing start to the season and now sit fourth in the West and within the playoff spots, but haven’t won in their last two matches. This match provides both clubs with the opportunity to move up at least one spot in the conference and further solidify a playoff position.
It’s hard to argue that Sebastian Giovinco isn’t the hottest player in the MLS, right now. The Italian designated player has scored eight goals in his last five games including not one…but TWO hat tricks including one against Orlando on Wednesday night. This unbelievable run has pushed Giovinco up to the top scoring spot in the league and it doesn’t look like there’s any defense that can handle the skilled Italian. His pace allows him to sprint past opposing center backs with ease, and his finesse means that any free kick anywhere near the area could find the back of the net. Do Sporting have the answer for Toronto’s Italian goal machine?
Giovinco’s goal scoring streak has taken some of the pressure off of the Toronto defense, but it’s worth noting that in the team’s last six games, they have allowed an astonishing 16 goals. The holes in the defense are particularly noticeable when going against the top attacks in the league as exemplified by four-goal beatings from NYCFC and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Through the first 21 games of the season, Toronto has managed to register just five clean sheets, and the last one came more than a month ago against DC United. The team can only rely on Giovinco to salvage them points so many times, and it might be time for the poor play to finally catch up to them.
When Sporting steps on the field Saturday, they will be missing one key player in their midfield: Roger Espinoza. The former Wigan man suffered a broken leg in the 86th minute of last week’s matchup against Houston and is set for a lengthy ten-week absence from the field. The loss of Espinoza leaves Sporting without his grit and passion in the heart of midfield and most likely pushes the club’s new signing Jordi Quintilla into the fold. Quintilla, who was most recently with Ajaccio in the second division of France, will have big shoes to fill and I’m not sure if Peter Vermes will throw him into Saturday’s game due to his lack of practice time with the club. This absence has the potential to cripple KC’s chances of winning not only this week, but for the rest of Espinoza’s period out of the team.
A major difference between these two teams is the depth that Kansas City has when it comes to goal scorers. Three different players on Sporting (Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber, and Krisztián Németh) have scored seven goals and this depth of attacking talent is what makes the team dangerous. Sporting has scored 30 goals in their first 20 games (1.5 goals/game) and the weak Toronto defense could be in for a very difficult afternoon. In my opinion, the most talented scorer of the group has to be Dom Dwyer. Dwyer appears to mirror the play of his wife, Sydney Leroux, as he sprints past defenders and rockets shots past helpless keepers. Look for him to terrorize Toronto and maybe grab the team scoring lead.
Even with their poor defense, it’s hard to not pick Sebastian Giovinco’s team to pull off a victory here. It has the potential to be a high scoring affair and nobody does that better than the Italian. My prediction: Toronto FC 3-2 Sporting KC.