With the first day of summer arriving in the Emerald City, there is no better day to turn the floundering ship around for Seattle Sounders FC as they face Eastern Conference power Sporting Kansas City.
In their first game at CenturyLink Field in nearly a month, the Sounders (7-4-3) are in desperate need of three points as they head into a stretch of three matches in eight days. And although a SKC side (9-3-1) that is nearing full form may not be the gimme game coach Sigi Schmid would have hoped for, tonight is a chance to show that this Seattle side is still a team not to be reckoned with.
Coming off the 4-1 trouncing at Montreal on the weekend, many fans — myself included — are calling for Schmid to make some changes in personnel tonight, and between a mix of players coming off injury and other dipping in form, we may just have our wishes answered. Swedish international right back Adam Johansson and Costa Rican left back Leo González both have returned from the injured list and should get the start tonight. This would mean that Zach Scott and Marc Burch — my preferred left back — will give way, adding defensive depth for the upcoming weeks.
The third change at the back will likely be Patrick Ianni coming into the center back role for Jhon Kennedy Hurtado whose absolutely ridiculous red card against Montreal will keep him out of the lineup tonight. This leaves only center back Jeff Parke and keeper Bryan Meredith in the lineup from the weekend, and if there’s one worry about tonight’s match it could be a lack of cohesion at the back.
Those five will have to content with a strong attacking presence for SKC in forwards Kei Kamara, CJ Sapong and Teal Bunbury all who have youth and talent on their side. Feeding them through the midfield will be US international Graham Zusi who will be watched like a hawk by Ozzie Alonso who will be back in the rave green tonight after serving his two match MLS ban. Alonso will also have a little extra to show tonight as he just became an American citizen.
At the back SKC will also be a little shuffled but still solid. Lead by MLS All-Star Aurelien Collin at center back and Danish keeper Jimmy Nielsen, SKC has proven a hard cookie to crack this season allowing a MLS best 10 goals this season, three better than second place Seattle.
Other playmakers to watch for SKC are midfielder Roger Espinoza and defenders Chance Myers and Julio Cesar.
In the midfield for Seattle, expect designated player Alvaro Fernandez to sit in favor of Alex Caskey who has been on a hot streak for the Sounders for the last month. Fernandez on the other hand has failed to find his form outside of the season opener in which he had two assists. We may also see captain Mauro Rosales — who has also had a dip in form — subbed out in favor of Cordell Cato if he does not make an impact on the match.
The one area of the pitch that has been producing consistent results over the past month is the pairing of forwards Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson which should stay unchanged.
Prediction — Seattle needs three points to not only keep pace with the western leaders, but more importantly need a massive confidence boost. With players like Steve Zakuani and Michael Gspurning possibly returning soon, Seattle has to make sure that they are close enough to the top to have those players make a big impact. Three points is the goal tonight, but all signs point to the Sounders fighting for a draw. Each team leaves with one point after a 2-2 draw.
Projected lineup —
GK, Bryan Meredith
CB, Patrick Ianni CB, Jeff Parke
RB, Adam Johansson LB, Leo González
CDM, Osvaldo Alonso
RM, Mauro Rosales LM, Alex Caskey
CAM, Brad Evans
FW, Fredy Montero FW, Eddie Johnson
Where to watch — kickoff is at 7 p.m. from CenturyLink Field. The game will be televised on KONG 6/16 if you are in the Seattle area and on Root Sports outside of Seattle.