Live on Sportsnet Pacific
Sporting Kansas City has six wins, no draws, and no losses. That's a lot, and they're not a bad team, but they're not as good as their record makes them look.
Four of those six wins came at home; their two road victories were over Chivas USA (and we of all people know that beating them in Carson doesn't count for much) and D.C. United, a decent team. In six wins they have only a +8 goal differential, which is pretty extraordinary: they beat the hapless New England Revolution 3-0 at home and all five of their other victories have been by one goal.
Last year's Kansas City team was fairly good defensively: they allowed 40 goals in 34 matches or 1.18 goals against per game. They kept most of the same defense together this year, adding no key players. On that basis, it's hard to believe their current record of 0.17 goals against per game is sustainable. Their offense is doing nothing extraordinary, but eventually teams are going to score on them because that's what happens in soccer. There is no question Kansas City will not keep this up. If you come here and suggest they will, I will laugh at you.
Again, Kansas City is good. They're probably better than the Vancouver Whitecaps. But they're not going to run the table: every team has hot streaks and eventually their luck turns. It is as inevitable as the sunrise. So what are the chances Vancouver turns Kansas City on their head tonight?
Much depends on the lineup. We know Michael Nanchoff, who had a very impressive pre-season, is close to being fit and could see a substitute appearance. Etienne Barbara is also said to be close to his season debut and we know Martin Rennie has confidence in him. Russell Teibert missed a practice with a minor illness but is back at it now; there's no reason I can even imagine why Martin Rennie would leave him out of the eighteen again.
I listed those players for a reason: because Teibert and Nanchoff are natural wide players while Barbara's filled that role in the past. I am sick of Rennie's narrow diamond, which has so far produced no results. This team just hasn't got the horses to shove the ball down an opposing defense's throat, particularly not a defense as good as Kansas City's. If we see another Jun Marques Davidson - John Thorrington - Atiba Harris - Davide Chiumiento thing I might flip out. I realize it's still early days for that new formation but I can't even really see how it's supposed to work.
The closest thing Kansas City has to a defensive weakness is at fullback: Seth Sinovic is a typical MLS replacement-level player and Chance Myers is fair but not remarkable. Both fullbacks are best on the attack but could be exploited if the Whitecaps just played wide and challenged them with some Nanchoff or some Canadian Soccer Jesus. This is so obvious I want to smash my face into my desk because we all know the Whitecaps aren't going to do it.
Vancouver should have fresher legs. They had the weekend off while Kansas City played a home game on Saturday and made a two-timezone trip to get here. On the other hand, Vancouver is still battered by injury and Jordan Harvey will probably make another start at left back for Alain Rochat. Kansas City's got a strong enough attack that I'd bet on them putting one or two past Joe Cannon in these circumstances, and they retain the ball well enough that if Vancouver is unable to play wide then we won't get too many chances to have Eric Hassli and Sebastien Le Toux batter down their front door.
As I've said, Kansas City is better than us. But they're not going to win the league, and they are vulnerable. Take advantage of our home field and our superior rest, pound their fullbacks, and we might get something out of this game.