It has been only 14 days since Seattle Sounders FC and Sporting Kansas City last met — but they’ve been good days.
The teams have gone a combined 3-0 since playing to a scoreless draw at CenturyLink Field on May 23. Seattle has beaten Colorado and the New York Red Bulls by a combined 3-1, while SKC torched FC Dallas, 4-0.
With those results, Seattle will be at the top of the Western Conference standings and Kansas City tied for third when the clubs meet again at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Sporting Park.
“I’d rather it be more spread out throughout the season, but I know that’s not always possible in our league and our scheduling and stadium availability, etc., etc.,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said of the quick rematch. “Maybe I’m traditional. I like it if you’re playing a team twice you play them in the first half of the season and the second half of the season. It also leads to imbalance, because if a team has injuries or is missing players you’re playing a team with the same guys missing, so it’s an advantage or a disadvantage sometimes.”
In this case, there could be considerable differences.
Kansas City’s Krisztian Nemeth, SKC’s goals leader (six) and MLS player of the month for May, is away with the Hungary nation team. However, Dom Dwyer, who was a late scratch in the original match with a right groin strain, hasn’t been ruled out for this one.
Meanwhile, the Sounders could be without five players who started the previous SKC match. Central defender Brad Evans is away with the U.S. national team, and defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is serving a one-game disciplinary suspension for a dangerous play last weekend. Forward Clint Dempsey is questionable due to the birth of a child. Chad Barrett is questionable after suffering a hamstring injury in training. Midfielder Gonzalo Pineda is questionable with an ankle injury. Forward Obefemi Martins — who missed the first Kansas City match with a leg injury — could miss this one while recovering from nose surgery.
Whatever Sounders do appear should be mostly recovered from a stretch of three league games in nine days, which began with the home SKC match.
“That was really (our training priority) this week: making sure the guys who needed rest got the rest and the guys who we expected to be rotating in this weekend were sharp,” said veteran defender Zach Scott, who is expected to start in place of Evans. “… We have a lot of guys who are hungry for minutes. It should be a good chance for guys to get minutes and keep things on a roll.”
Beyond the difference in personnel and location, there also could be a notable difference in tactics.
In Seattle, visiting SKC sat back deeply on defense and got their best goal-scoring chance in stoppage time, when goalkeeper Stefan Frei made a diving stop on a shot from Benny Feilhaber.
The Sounders expect Sporting to take a more aggressive posture on their home pitch.
“They’re a team that plays fast and looks to counter on you,” Scott said. “We expect if Dwyer is in there that he’s going to try to stretch us defensively. They’re a good possession team, and they’re going to obviously have their line of confrontation a bit higher than they were at CenturyLink. They’ll be pressing us all over the field. It’s a tough place to play. They’ve got a great crowd. It almost feels like that ball get sucked back into that fan section over there. We’re expecting their absolute best.”