Teams with two of the most passionate fan bases in the league will face off against each other Saturday night when the Seattle Sounders play host to Sporting Kansas City. Currently, the two teams are separated by just two points with Seattle sitting third in the Western Conference and Sporting below them in fifth place. Both of these teams are coming off of big wins at the weekend and both will be looking to spark a winning streak as they push for the top spot in the West.
Right now, Seattle has to be considered one of the hottest and most exciting teams in Major League Soccer. The team from the Northwest has won six of their previous seven games and the dynamic duo of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey in the attack has given Sounders’ fans highlight reel goals to watch again and again. However, an injury to Martins poses a major issue for Seattle as it looks increasingly likely that their Nigerian front man will miss his second straight game. The loss of Martins means that Chad Barrett will likely take a spot in the starting eleven, but that won’t worry Sounders’ fans as Barrett is coming off a sensational two-goal performance in the team’s last game against Vancouver. If Barrett can replicate his form this weekend, Sporting KC will find themselves with a very difficult test Saturday night.
With all of the attention that fans give the Seattle attack, it’s important not to forget that it takes defense to win games as well. Stefan Frei and the Sounders’ backline are coming off of an impressive clean sheet win over the Whitecaps last week, and they’ll be hoping for another one against their Midwestern opponents. At home this season, Seattle has only allowed an opponent to score on one occasion and that came in a shocking 2-3 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes. Other than that slip up, Sigi Schmid’s men have looked dominant shutting down the front lines of New England, Houston and most recently Portland. Will Saturday’s game end with a fourth home clean sheet?
For the visitors, a 4-2 victory over the Revolution midweek will provide some invaluable momentum going into possibly the most difficult stadium in the league. During their travels this season, Sporting KC have won just one of their five away games, but have managed to earn draws in their previous two, including a hard fought result against a DC United team that currently sit atop the Eastern Conference. However, travelling seems to cause issues in the Sporting defense as their Ike Opara-less back line has given up ten goals, with the most horrendous result being a thrilling 4-4 draw in Houston. With the talent that Seattle possesses up top, Saturday could be a very very long day for fans in Kansas City.
With that being said, the man in the spotlight for Kansas City will be their US international Matt Besler. Other than having to sit out the match against FC Dallas at the start of the year due to a red card suspension, Besler has started and played every minute of Sporting’s games so far this season. It’s been far from a dream season for the American as his usual partner in the heart of defense, Ike Opara, suffered a season ending injury after the team’s match against Real Salt Lake, and in the five games since, KC has only managed to keep a single clean sheet. Besler will need to be at his best when he takes the pitch against Barrett and Dempsey or we may see a repeat of the four-goal game against Houston.
It’s hard not to get goose bumps as an MLS fan when you see the amazing support Seattle gets week in and week out, and I think the tens of thousands Sounders’ supporters that pack CenturyLink Field Saturday night will be treated with a fine win from the home team. Even with the momentum Sporting KC has after their big win over New England, the lack of defensive strength will be their downfall as Seattle wins comfortably 3-0.