MLS Cup 1st Round – Royal Brougham Park, Seattle, WA SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC v. SPORTING KANSAS CITY Pre-Match Analysis

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. And with our triumph over Salt Lake in the season finale, the league fixture list comes to a close with our MLS Cup qualification assured. Tonight, we will begin our eighth MLS Cup tournament. The Sounders FC have never failed to qualify for MLS Cup since our rebirth in 2009. The first round are all knockout matches. So it’s win or go home. Statistics and trends from the league schedule, or even from previous MLS Cup tournaments, have little relevance in a one match playoff. I’ll do my utmost to piece together a reasonable expectation of what you will likely see from tonight’s cup tie. Again, support is vital. Rally the Green Family, with ECS and all her sub-groups in every corner of the nation. If you’re in the Puget Sound area try to get a ticket to the match. If you can’t manage that, try to connect with your local supporters group for a viewing party at a local pub or at the home of a brother or sister in Green. For domestic football in America, there is no greater stage than the MLS Cup. For the players and manager Brian Schmetzer, the stakes can be no higher. Sporting make the trip from Kansas to Occidental Avenue to face us in a single match playoff. The stakes: Advancement to the MLS Western Conference Semi-Finals. When you get to the park give every scrap of energy you can manage to help support our boys in Green. Lend your full voice to the cause. C’MON SEATTLE…FIGHT…AND WIN!!! From wherever you are, all our spirits will be as one this night. And wherever you may find yourselves, raise your cups and join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY.

The Good News
Everyone in the starting eleven for the season finale is eligible for selection. Evans and Valdez seem to have overcome their injury problems, as they were available on the substitute’s bench last week. Rubio, Sporting’s Chilean Designated Player, is out as he continues his rehab from an ACL tear. As Rubio was one of Sporting’s major scoring threats, it’s one less thing our centre-halves have to worry about. We play this match at Royal Brougham Park, in front of the best supporters in the league. This is a tremendous advantage. If I’ve done the maths correctly we are 6-3-2 at home in MLS Cup ties (W-D-L). Despite a late season lapse of form over the last few games, we managed a good result against a resolute Salt Lake side last Sunday. Provided that our execution and compete level are the same as in the last match, we should be in fighting shape for cup football. With any luck, the knock Fernández took on Sunday will be nothing but a stinger and he will open the match at right midfield. Should Fernández be scratched, we can count on Gómez (or another) filling in ably.

The Bad News
Our overall record in MLS Cup is less than sparkling with seven wins from 20 matches (7-4-9). Ivanschitz’ knee problem was enough to keep him out of last week’s vital match against Salt Lake. This tells me that the Austrian’s injury is perhaps quite severe, and that we shouldn’t expect him in the matchday 18. His experience and his ability on set pieces will be missed barring a miraculous recovery. To the best of my knowledge, Dylan Remick is still undergoing post-concussion protocol and it is my expectation that he will not be available for selection tonight. Although Remick will be missed, there is plenty of depth in the squad at the full-back position – notably: Joevin Jones, Alfaro, Fisher, Evans, and if necessary, Roldan. Anderson may be fit to sit the substitute’s bench as a striker, provided that he passes a late fitness test with his ailing hamstring. The fact that Anderson wasn’t among the substitutes for the last match make me think that he will be a scratch for tonight. If you look at the season numbers for both clubs, there isn’t much to separate us from Kansas City apart from the clear advantage of playing at home.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Count on Tim Melia to be between the pipes for Kansas City. He is their most experienced goalkeeper, and has played in all but seven of his teams matches in the league this season.

Defence – Abdul-Salaam is quite young and inexperienced as a pro. You would have to imagine that if Meyers is fit that he would be selected over Abdul-Salaam. Don’t know much about Ellis save to say he has over 60 pro matches under his belt, so perhaps Coelho and his scads of European experience would be preferred. Besler is a seasoned pro and a regular selection for United States. Seattle forwards will have their hands full trying to get around Besler. Sinovic is a seasoned veteran who has won a US Open Cup and an MLS Cup with Kansas City. He’ll be in the team if he’s fit.

Midfield –
Feilhaber’s exploits as a United States international are well known. He’s experienced, skillful, and also a threat to score. Mustivar, a Haitian international, is a veteran of Romanian football having won a cup there. He’ll be in the team. Nagamura has won five domestic titles between his time with Los Angeles and Kansas City. The São Paulo, Brazil native also put in three years at Arsenal FC’s youth academy. Graham Zusi has over 40 caps for United States, bags full of experience, a laundry list of honours, and over 25 professional goals to his name.

Forward –
Dwyer is the danger man, having scored 16 goals in the league this year. The UK born striker was originally a product of the Norwich City FC youth system. Espinoza, listed as a midfield player, is plenty good. He has nearly 50 caps for Honduras and has won three titles, including an English FA Cup with Wigan Athletic FC.

Familiar Faces
Former California Golden Bears player Connor Hallisey is now a contracted midfield player for Sporting KC. SKC defender, Olum played 44 times for arch-rivals Portland scoring six goals.

Selections for Last Match
Sounders FC: Frei, Mears, Torres, Marshall, Joevin Jones, Alonso, Friberg, Roldan, Lodeiro, Fernández, Morris.

Bench: Miller (gk), Scott, Fisher, Valdez, Evans, Kovar, Gómez.

Kansas City: Melia, Abdul-Salaam, Ellis, Besler, Sinovic, Feilhaber, Mustivar, Nagamura, Zusi, Dwyer, Espinoza.

Bench: Kann (gk), Coelho, Opara, Olum, Hallisey, Peterson, Medranda.

Injury List
Seattle –
OUT: Dempsey (irregular heartbeat), Ivanschitz (knee), Remick (concussion).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Anderson (hamstring).

Kansas City –
OUT: Rubio (ACL).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Mapp (calf), Myers (thigh), Davis (calf).

None suspended as no bookings have yet been issued in the MLS Cup for either club.

Fun Fact
Tonight’s match is the first ever meeting between Seattle and Kansas City in the MLS Cup.