The play of CJ Sapong (left), and Teal Bunbury will play a big part in just how far Sporting Kansas City will go in the postseason.(Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
Pregame CoverageMLSsoccer.com- Sporting KC defend tough tactics vs. Rapids
Soccer By Ives- Confident Bunbury striking at right time
In theory, Sunday night's match against the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park should have been the hard part out of the two leg series between Sporting Kansas City and the defending MLS Cup champions.
Sporting KC passed that test handily 2-0, behind a dominating performance from forward Teal Bunbury, and by taking advantage of a Rapids team depleted by injuries, and a suspension to defender Tyrone Marshall.
Marshall is not the only player the Rapids will be without when the two teams face off at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park later tonight. Colorado's injury report also includes impact players Drew Moor,Kosuke Kimura, and Caleb Folan. All three players had to leave Sunday night's match with various injuries. Include those three players to an injury list that already includes team captain Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith, and Conor Casey, and it's easy to see why Colorado may fail to repeat as champions in 2011.
All signs point to Sporting KC being able to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. Essentially, all Kansas City has to do is hold even with Colorado tonight, as they hold a two goal advantage after Sunday night's 2-0 result. It's a task that Sporting KC should be able to complete in the friendly confines of LIVESTRONG, especially if Bunbury can continue his torrid form.
However, I did hear an interesting theory put forth by MLSsoccer.com Sporting KC beat writer Andrew Wiebe on the Talkin' Touches podcast, who threw out the idea that perhaps Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes would choose to sit Bunbury for tonight's match, seeing as Bunbury is sitting on a yellow card (from Sunday's match), and given the fact that Sporting KC hold a two goal lead already.
Definitely makes an interesting point. I think the possibility of that happening will depend on the health of LW Omar Bravo, who missed the first leg match due to a groin strain. If Bravo is healthy enough to start, then I do think it's at least a possibility that CJ Sapong could start instead of Bunbury. As most of you probably already know, Sapong started in Bravo's place on the left wing Sunday. If Bravo can't go, then I'd say Bunbury starts, as Sapong would probably once again take Bravo's spot on the left side.
Still, with that being said, I still get the feeling that Bunbury cracks the starting XI. I don't see Vermes just sitting back, and playing defense, not even with the two goal lead. I think he goes full throttle, especially with Sporting KC being at home.
We already know that Colorado will have to play a more wide open game than what they would probably like. Being down two goals, they can't play their more conservative style that they seem to favor. Which could mean Sporting KC could have a number of opportunities to take advantage of.
Of course, a trip to the Eastern Conference finals isn't a shoe-in for Sporting KC. Even though the Rapids are an ailing squad at the moment, with their backs to the wall, they still are the defending champions. And as we've seen in these playoffs already (RSL dominating Seattle 3-0), anything can happen.
Player to Watch
Teal Bunbury- He's been on fire as of late; four goals in his last four matches. It will be interesting to see if he can continue his recent form. Heck, maybe if Teal can stay hot, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will finally give him some game-time action for once.
Prediction- Sporting KC 3, Colorado Rapids 1 As much as I try to downplay all of the Eastern Conference finals talk I've been hearing lately, honestly, I can't really disagree. Sporting KC did the heavy lifting Sunday by going into the Rapids' stadium and coming out with a win. Now, Sporting KC just has to do what they've done at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park all year.
COLORADO RAPIDS -- OUT: DF Drew Moor (R shoulder AC joint sprain); DF Kosuke Kimura (L foot fracture); MF Jamie Smith (R ACL tear); FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); DF Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery); DOUBTFUL: FW Caleb Folan (L knee / ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Pablo Mastroeni (concussion); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)
SPORTING KANSAS CITY -- OUT: DF Daneil Cyrus (L foot fracture); MF Luke Sassano (R knee sprain); MF Peterson Joseph (R knee surgery); MF Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery); PROBABLE: FW Omar Bravo (R abductor strain)