Dr Jekyll.. Dr Jekyll?
If Sporting KC had an astrological sign, it would not be Gemini. There is Dr Jekyll, Mt. Hyde complex at KC whether the team plays at home or on the road. The Wizards have this mentality to set the tone of the game in their own style, setting the tempo and not abiding to the classic away games mentality. Not playing for a tie as a motto on the road, the results speaks for itself:
Sporting KC is 8-4-2 on the road this season since beating the New York Red Bulls hence giving them the best road record in MLS. The three points (from the midweek game) gives the club the most points tallied on the road in its history:
More on the league's (arguably) best team after the jump
Throughout the 2012 MLS season, Sporting KC has proven to be one of the best teams in the league. As a whole, I do find Sporting KC to be more complete than the San Jose Earthquakes. As a reminder, KC won the first seven games of the season and are also the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup champions. The Montreal Impact met Sporting KC twice already going 1-1 as both teams traded away wins.
The last game between both teams was a 3-1 loss of the Impact at Stade Saputo after leading 1-0. Some things don't change for Montreal as scoring efficiency was an issue in that game and still is at the end of September. Marco Di Vaio had Aurelien Collin's number for most of the game but could not beat a strong Jimmy Nielsen. If a lack of efficiency comes back to haunt Montreal, Sporting KC will take advantage of that and leave Stade Saputo with all 3 points.
With a strong physical midfield, an aggressive defensive line and a talented front line, KC seems to be unbeatable and their record shows it. A trademark of the team has been and still is attacking from the wings (the Chicago Fire game anyone?) and crossing the ball for C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara. You would think that Sporting KC would have scored 50+ goals this season but have the lowest Goals Per Games rate among playoff teams (in the East):
Flip the coin and you have a team with the lowest Goals Per Game allowed in the league:
Kei Kamara and Paulo Nagamura offer a lot of the wing attacks but you will see Graham Zusi pinch on the the sides and in the central midfield area. The big target upfront will be C.J. Sapong who has gained back his form after a mid-season groin injury. The 2011 MLS season rookie of the year, the 23-year old is dangerous target and mixes very well a physical presence with on the ball skills. It's not something that the Impact defense cannot handle but previous physical and mental fatigue showed at the end of games, Sapong is very dangerous.
The midfield battle will be more accentuated in this game with Bernier-Warner-Felipe going against Zusi-Cesar-Espinoza. Both midfield play a short passing game on the ground and being precisely sharp is mandatory. The midfield bottleneck battle will determine who will control the flow of the game and who will deliver long crosses.
The advantage of the Sporting KC midfield also comes from the its fullbacks / outside backs. Marking and stifling C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara is not impossible especially if you close off service from Graham Zusi or Espinoza. But Sporting KC relies on its fullbacks to come forward, provide options, stretch out the opponent's and cross the ball in the box. The defensive responsibility of Davy Arnaud, Sanna Nyassi, Lamar Neagle and Justin Mapp (depending on who plays on the left) will be big to slow down the full backs and communication with the defensive line will be crucial.
Playing against a stronger team has been a challenge that the Montreal Impact has responded to positively, win or lose. When trying to make playoffs, looking good, having chances and being brave will not be enough without the 3 points.