Wondering what to expect from Sporting Kansas City on Saturday? We've colluded with the enemy to bring you the latest from their side.
Cody Bradley, a writer at The Blue Testament, answered questions for us.
1. We always talk about the rivalry when we meet — and probably rightly so. But for as much of a rivalry as the two teams have to have themselves, how much ill-will is there from SKC fans toward Real Salt Lake?
I don't know much true ill-will there is anymore, but this is definitely a match that Sporting KC fans look for when the schedule comes out. If there are any hard feelings they would probably be directed towards specific players because of.. well any form of soccer fan reasoning. I know Kyle Beckerman is one people like to complain about (with RSL of course... Go USA) after so many chippy fouls over the years. SKC always have trouble against RSL and I know a lot of fans would still love taking points from them. That probably stems back to the days where Salt Lake players liked to imply they played a certain beautiful style while KC was thuggish.
Even with so many potential problems on both sides, I think this game is good for several cards. RSL will still want to get a couple kicks on Benny, who will be amped up playing his first match. It will be fun to see these two sides butt heads trying to avoid their first losses off the season.
2. Obviously it's a blow to lose Roger Espinoza — we know that. With RSL facing a glut of absences, what impact will your own absences have on the match?
Unfortunately, Vermes said Besler is out. Obviously big to lose the captain, but the next CB in line is Ike Opara and he could also be out as well. Then you are looking at Kevin Ellis or Lawrence Olum to step up. Beyond that, the questions are about Zusi and Mustivar who played midweek for their national teams. If Zusi doesn't start we would probably see Connor Hallisey get another nod. If Mustivar is out, that is where it gets interesting. Lawrence Olum knows how to play that position in Peter's system. But perhaps Jordi Quintilla drops back into that roll and Jimmy Medranda (who looked great in the Swope Park Rangers Inaugural match last weekend and was called up for this match) plays in the midfield.
However, those international matches were all the way back on Tuesday so I think Zusi and Mustivar should be ready to go. KC could only end up missing a couple players. Now, when those two are Hometown Hero Captain America Matt Besler and Roger Espinoza who has been playing out of his mind this season, the lineup is definitely missing something.
Peter Vermes built the lineup to absorb problems like this. Depth has been the mantra all offseason and preseason. He's also great at giving reserve players opportunities and instilling confidence in them. Anyone who is called on will have experience, they'll know their job in the system, and they will be ready to go.
3. What's the biggest difference we can expect to see from SKC since we last met?
Well hopefully you see things very differently in almost every aspect from them. Because RSL was unbeaten with two wins in three matches against Sporting KC last season. But the biggest difference you will see will be Brad Davis on the wing in Sporting Blue. He has yet to make his first start but already scored his first goal, a match winner. He was returning from a minor injury but should start Saturday. Look for him and Zusi (or his opposite winger) to be swapping sides quite a bit. Davis looks determined and he does have his eye on Donovan's assist record.
The other big difference is Nuno Andre Coelho. He is a 30 year old Portugese center back with fantastic experience in Europe. He's already got a goal himself and very quickly established himself as the starting CB.
Keep an eye out for Jordi Quintilla. He was with the team last year, but would have been hiding on the bench. He is a 22 year old Barcelona B product. VERY talented. Although I must admit it isn't my first time this season, I am calling for Jordi's first goal this week.
Also, Krisztian Nemeth chased the money to Qatar. But I'm sorry these 9 points from 3 matches are too damn nice to be worried about him anymore.
Predicted lineup: (4-3-3) Tim Melia, Amadou Dia, Nuno Andre Coelho, Kevin Ellis, Soni Mustivar, Jordi Quintilla, Benny Feilhaber, Brad Davis, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi
Sporting Kansas City 3 - 1 Real Salt Lake