The Seattle Sounders will open their 2016 MLS season against Sporting KC on Sunday, March 6 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 7:00pm EST and can be seen on Fox Sports 1. This will be the 13th all-time meeting between the two clubs.
Both these teams will be looking to start the 2016 season off on the right foot. Both ended the 2015 season in disappointment by bowing out in the early rounds of the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs. Sporting KC lost to the eventual MLS Cup winners, the Portland Timbers on penalties during the knockout stage. Seattle lost on penalties as well to FC Dallas in the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Sounders and Sporting KC have played a total of 13 times prior to this meeting. Seattle holds an overall record of 7-2-2 (win-loss-tie), but Sporting got the last laugh last year going 1-0-2 in the three games played last season. The loss to Sporting KC came on a questionable penalty called on Sounders goalkeepers Stefan Frei. Dom Dwyer and Frei were both going for the ball and Frei made contact with Dwyer, prompting referee Ismail Elfath to point to the spot and award Sporting with a penalty. Benny Feilhaber converted the penalty to give Sporting a 1-0 victory at Sporting Park.
The last game played between the two team took place on September 27 also at Sporting Park. The Sounders should have won that game as Sporting brought out a reserve squad ahead of them playing for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy just a few days later against the Philadelphia Union. Seattle took an early 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute from an Obafemi Martins goal. They would give up the lead in the 79th minute to a Dwyer goal, allowing Sporting to come away with a crucial point.
Keys to Winning
Seattle needs to control the midfield with their new 4-3-3 formation with Erik Friberg, Osvaldo Alonso and Andreas Ivanschitz as the three men in charge of doing so. Sporting KC will need to put the Sounders backline under constant pressure. In their two games against Club America in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, the Sounders two center backs looked a bit slow. Granted it was Seattle’s first two games of the season, but they need to be on their A game to slow down Dwyer and company.
Seattle will also need to have Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris and Nelson Valdez cause problems all night for the Sporting defense and make goalkeeper Tim Melia stand on his head to keep them in game.
For the Sounders it would seem pretty straight forward. One could assume that they will roll out with the same formation (4-3-3) and players they used in their two games against Club America.
Jones, Marshall, Evan, Mears
Friberg, Alonso, Ivanschitz
Dempsey, Valdez, Morris
For Sporting KC, you should expect to put their best on the field. Graham Zusi, Justin Mapp and Dwyer can cause fits for opposing defense. Jones and Mears will need to be cautious not to venture too far up field and get hit on the counter-attack. Here is a possible lineup for Head Coach Peter Vermes heading into the season opener (4-3-3).
Myers, Nuno, Besler, Salaam
Feilhaber, Mustivar, Espinoza
Mapp, Dwyer, Zusi
If any of the other 13 matches are the same, expect this game to be a hard fought, close game. Every single game has ended tied or the team that won the game only won by one goal. Five of the 13 games played between the two teams had goals scored in stoppage time to win the game. The most recently in the opening game of the 2014 MLS season. Former Sounders forward Chad Barrett scored the game-winning goal in the 94th minute.
Expect this game to go to the very end. If it opens up and there are a lot of goals scored, it would be a surprise. In saying that, expect the Sounders to grab the win late in this one again.