This Sporting Kansas City team has been so up-and-down recently that they are hard to predict. I really have no idea what to expect this afternoon when me and 20,000 of my closest friends welcome the Seattle Sounders to Sporting Park. All I know for sure is that win, lose or draw Sporting will still be in a playoff spot after this afternoon's match. I also know that the last two games of today's MLS triple-header won't change that position. Today's game isn't a must-win. We're darn fortunate that today isn't a must-win, because Sporting frankly isn't very likely to win this match. With Besler and Feilhaber suspended, both the goal-prevention and goal-creation parts of the game look ominous for the Boys in Blue. With the Open Cup Final looming in Philadelphia on Wednesday, it would be perilously easy to look past this match, so there's a real risk of a lack of focus (kind of like we saw in Houston). Meanwhile, the Sounders have come out of their midseason doldrums and once again look like a legitimate threat to win the league (aside: it's funny how often a run of bad play in MLS corresponds to star players being lost to injury or suspension).
If I hadn't sworn off of trying to forecast Sporting results, I would predict an epic home loss today. Given the team's injury situation, I would call this season a success if we win the Open Cup and catch a playoff spot (any playoff spot), so I'd even be okay with receiving a drubbing today for the sake of lifting a trophy midweek.
Maybe I'll just go out to Sporting Park and watch my team play hard in a doomed effort. Maybe I'll see the talented but so-very-young Erik Palmer-Brown taught lessons in craft and guile by Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Seriously, is there a worst central defender pairing you can imagine to match up against that pair of talented forwards than the undersized Kevin Ellis and the under-experienced EPB? There could be many, many goals scored for the bad guys today.
Maybe Nemeth will be rested another match to keep a tweak from turning into a serious injury. Nemo's absence would further undermine an already challenged Benny-less attack, but if there's any concern at all Nemeth should be rested. Maybe I'll see Jacob Peterson starting on the wing again. I love Peterson as a bench guy, but he is exposed for his lack of pace without the advantage of coming on against guys who have already been running for 60 minutes. The oft-injured Bernardo Anor isn't much faster, and we could easily see both of those plodders start today's match. Maybe we'll see Sporting lose a lot of footraces today.
Maybe Jordi Quintilla or Mikey Lopez will make an unexpected start in the midfield and show us why Vermes hasn't been ready to play either of them much before now. Maybe Zusi will be dropped into the midfield and we will be reminded of why he usually plays on the wing.
Maybe Vermes will field a mostly second choice lineup to rest starters ahead of the Wednesday match. That wouldn't be much like Vermes, but I couldn't argue with that decision.
Or maybe guys will step up today. That would be very Sporting, to be focused and in synch when that's least expected. Maybe we'll crush the Sounders today. I hope so, but I just don't know. IF we do manage to win, I hope that it's not at the expense of the Open Cup Final.
I just don't know what to expect, and that's kind of fun. It's going to be a beautiful day for a soccer match. I intend to enjoy myself however that match turns out.