One of the most memorable MLS Regular Season moments for the Impact came in 2013, when Blake Smith scored in the 96th minute to give the Impact the win against their Eastern Conference foe, Sporting Kansas City. That moment sparked heated confrontations between the two teams, notably coaches Marco Schällibaum and Peter Vermes. The tension has mainly died since then, however. With Sporting's move to the Western conference, limiting the two teams to a single fixture every year, there is hardly a rivalry between the Impact and Kansas City.
Amidst all of the changes, however, the core of Kansas City's team has remained intact. With some major departures hurting the team, mainly Hungarian international Kristian Nemeth returning to Europe, Kansas City's main strength lies in their MLS mainstays. Matt Besler solidifies a stout defense, while Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber are both dynamic players in the midfield. Besler and Zusi are both Designated Players, a just representation of their importance to Kansas City and their success in MLS.
Another key cog in the Sporting machine is their main goal scoring threat, Dom Dwyer. Impact fans will remember the numerous times Dwyer has come to bite them; he is truly lethal in front of goal, leading SKC with 6 goals on the season. Kansas City often lines up in a 4-3-3, a similar structure to the one often employed by Mauro Biello, with a compact middle three and wide front three. The wing play of Zusi in the front three, as well as supporting players Brad Davis, acquired from the Houston Dynamo, as well as former Impact winger Justin Mapp, is essential. The wide players in the 4-3-3 have to get the ball to Dwyer in the box, as the centre forward is capable of scoring both with his feet and his head.
To add to Kansas City's attacking threat, Benny Feilhaber has started to regain his form from last year, when he was truly one of the best midfielders in the entire league. He scored a goal and assisted on another from a set piece in Sporting KC's victory against FC Dallas last week. Sitting in front of the defense, Feilhaber is capable of hitting precise long balls to his wingers as well as to Dwyer. He isn't hesitant to join in the attack himself, either.
The key for the Impact against Sporting will be strength on centre defense. With Ciman still with the Belgian national team in France, it will be up to Wandrille Lefevre and Victor Cabrera to build off a road shut out against Columbus. Dwyer will be a much more difficult task for the pair to deal with, and allowing him too much space will sure prove costly for the Impact on Saturday.
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