So far, things have not gone well for Sporting KC in their transition to the Western Conference. The sky blue jerseys have yet to experience a victory this season and have garnered only two points out of a possible nine. Far gone are the days of the 2013 MLS Cup title as the Kansas City side sits at the bottom of their conference. Peter Vermes’ squad will travel to Yankee Stadium Saturday for only their second away game this season. Their first road trip ended in a 3-1 massacring at the hands of upstart FC Dallas.
Fans have a right to be disappointed in their team’s winless start especially when national team players like Matt Besler, Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi are on the field. A lack of composure and an inability to finish chances have been the downfall of KC, with this very apparent in the team’s season opener against the other New York team as Sporting blew a one goal lead, and proceeded to have captain Besler sent off and Dom Dwyer miss a late chance to win the match.
In order to have any chance of handing NYCFC their first ever loss Saturday, Sporting KC will have to show the class that they have in the midfield. Zusi and Feilhaber will have to rediscover the chemistry that led their side to the playoffs last season. More cohesion in the middle of the park will lead to more chances for Roger Espinoza and Dwyer up top to finally score more than one goal for the first time all season and take some pressure off of the back line.
The hosts have gotten off to an almost dream start to their first season in the MLS as they sit atop the Eastern Conference and hold onto an undefeated record to boot. In a squad full of stars, goalkeeper Josh Saunders has been the MVP so far allowing only two goals in the first three matches. If it weren’t for his highlight reel saves against Orlando and Colorado, New York could be sitting with just three points and two losses.
The main issue to expect for any new side is a lack of cohesion. NYCFC are no exemption to this as the midfield and center back combinations are still working to build solid match chemistry. It takes time for players to get comfortable playing with each other and no amount of preseason training can replicate a gameday environment. This is a big reason why Saunders has been called into action so many times this season as the back line works to familiarize themselves with each other.
You can’t talk about NYCFC without talking about David Villa. The Spanish striker has comfortably transitioned into his new surroundings and showed his class during the home opener against the New England Revolution with a goal and an assist. His presence on the field draws the attention of every opposing defender and opens up space for his teammates. Will the shaky KC back line be able to handle Villa’s master class?
I fully expect Jason Kreis to earn his second victory as NYCFC manager this weekend. New York has looked the better side in the first three weeks of the season and it’s hard to imagine KC engineering an upset in the House That Jeter Built. When the final whistle blows on Saturday the scoreboard will display a 2-1 victory for the hosts.