VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 2: Roger Espinoza #15 of the Sporting Kansas FC holds off Wes Knight #8 of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC while trying to chase down a loose ball during the second half in MLS action on April 02, 2011 at Empire Field in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Sporting KC are set to begin their three game run-in against Pacific Northwest teams with an away test this Wednesday against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Vancouver started out the season extremely well but have seen their form dip slightly in recent weeks. Sporting KC on the other hand will look to maintain their excellent winning streak against a side that was tough for them away last year.
Last year's trip to Vancouver will want to be remembered by Kansas City fans for the goals Teal Bunbury scored. However most everyone else around the league will remember the game for the terrible defending by Sporting KC that saw Vancouver score three second half goals.
Sporting KC let three points as well as three goals slip right right through their fingers last season, let's hope this year is different.
Time: 9:00 pm CT, coverage on KSMO starts at 8:30 pm CT
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Who: Sporting KC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
What: Major League Soccer Round 6
Key Matchup: Bunbury/Sapong vs. Jay DeMerit
This week's key matchup will be whoever starts up top for Sporting KC(Bunbury or Sapong) vs Vancouver's best defensive player, Jay DeMerit. Jay started the season as one of the league's top center backs but with Vancouver's form dip has also turned in more unconvincing performances than good ones in the past couple of games.
On the flip side, the key position for Sporting KC will be who gets the nod to start at forward from Peter Vermes. CJ Sapong is of course the preferred starting striker but I expect a decent amount of squad rotation seeing as Sporting KC will end up having played three games in just eight days. Plus, it was last year in Vancouver where Teal Bunbury shut up his Canadian brethren and scored some of his best goals in a KC shirt.
Last year's highlights:
Vancouver Whitecaps player to watch: Eric Hassli
Probably Vancouver's most threatening player Eric Hassli will be looking to score his first goal of the 2012 season on Wednesday night. Hassli plays in one of the most depth filled forward lines in the league, most likely second only to Sporting KC. And while he hasn't scored a goal yet, he leads the team in assists with two and is always dangerous in the attacking third for the Whitecaps.
Predicted Lineup: GK: Jimmy Nielsen RB: Chance Myers CB"s: Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler LB: Seth Sinovic CM's: Paulo Nagamura, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza RW: Kei Kamara ST: CJ Sapong LW: Jacob Peterson
Vermes will probably keep the same backline but will most definitely switch out Julio Cesar with either Lawrence Olum or Paulo Nagamura. Paulo of course is the most MLS experienced out of the two.
Predicted Score: Sporting KC 2 - Vancouver Whitecaps 1
The lessons learned last year after this game will be in the back of most of Sporting KC's minds. Vancouver in the meantime, has played well defensively but has struggled going forward. I vote Sporting KC on this one guys, we've got that feel-good factor.