Chivas USA are returning to the Home Depot Center this weekend, and this time around they are hosting Sporting Kansas City. Before we get into the preview and discuss Chivas' chances at a result for a second consecutive week, let's welcome Alex Englen, from SB Nation Sporting Kansas City blog The Daily Wiz for another round of three questions. For a team that's flying high like SKC, Alex is feeling pretty good, and why shouldn't he? Thanks to him for his time in answering The Goat Parade's questions!
You'll find his answers to my questions first, followed by my answers to his questions. Enjoy!
The Goat Parade Asks The Daily Wiz:
1. Sporting Kansas City has picked up where they left off last season, and they currently sit atop the standings. What do you think are the team's goals this season? What would be considered success for SKC in 2012?
Like you said, SKC picked off right where they started last season. A lot of guys like Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic stayed in KC during the offseason focusing on their physical side of play. The rest of the squad also came in prepared so that when preseason started Peter Vermes and his staff didn't need to focus on fitness as much and was able to get right into tactical work. So for Sporting Kansas City anything less than the playoffs would be labeled a failure of a season. I think the players know it, the coaches know it, and even the fans know it. Obviously the end goal for Sporting KC is to be playing in the MLS Cup Final and from times when I've talked to the players and asked about what they expect from the season all of them said that the MLS final was the goal. Basically it's MLS Cup or bust for Sporting KC.
2. KC have amassed an impressive roster, and the forwards in particular garner most of the headlines surrounding the club. Is there a player or two who don't get the attention they deserve, and what do they bring to the squad?
I think you have to look at guys like Seth Sinovic and Roger Espinoza. Seth has certainly been one of the best if not the most consistent players for Sporting KC. He loves to get forward from his left back position and link up with Graham Zusi and Bobby Convey to attack the opposition's goal. He was a solid pick-up for Sporting KC last year after being let go by New England and has done more than enough to prove his value for this club. Like you said - he's a guy that not a lot of other fans know about with our forwards grabbing most of the headlines but he's one of our key guys when we move forward. Like Seth, Roger Espinoza is a left footed player but unlike Seth, plays center mid and is a Honduran national team member. It's very cliche in Kansas City to say this but Roger brings a bull-dog-like approach to the game. His tenacity and bite in the midfield helps him win a lot of balls and is in general just a hard working guy. He can link up with the rest of Sporting KC's midfield and helps move the ball from side to side.
3. I'm curious about SKC coach Peter Vermes. He seems to be well-supported by the fanbase, and his flexible formation seems to be paying off in a major way. He also seems stubborn, which is a good trait but can also backfire, and he seems to be a "my way or the highway" kind of coach. How effective do you think Vermes' style is, and do you think his approach will work in the long run?
Ya definitely, his coaching style and his no-nonsense attitude has brought a level of professionalism that previously hadn't been seen in Kansas City from a head coach for quite some time. He's been absolutely instrumental in the way players like Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, and CJ Sapong have progressed into some of the best players in the league. Using his stern attitude he has made them play in the pressing 4-3-3 attacking formation but also knows when to give them a little bit of freedom to express their own ideas on the ball. Possibly the greatest thing about Peter Vermes is that he knows the league so well and how MLS works. It seems to me that some foreign coaches tend to be a little bit out of touch with some of the rules and how the league functions as a whole but in just a little under 3 years Peter Vermes has been compared with some of the other established coaches in the league like Sigi Schmid and Bruce Arena as the best managers in the league.
The Daily Wiz asks The Goat Parade:
1. Former Sporting Kansas City player Ryan Smith is now with Chivas USA after spending a year and a half in Kansas City. I think a lot of the fans up here want to know how he is playing down in LA with Chivas, can you talk about how he's been thus far into the campaign?
Smith has been a welcome addition to Chivas. While I understand the reasons for his abrupt departure from Kansas City were obscured for a long time and led to a great deal of resentment from the SKC fans, I think his mother's chronic illness seems like a reasonable justification for his departure. He's moved his family from England to Southern California, and he has been saying the right things since joining Chivas. He's also played well, although he hasn't had many scoring chances so far. I would attribute that more to the ultra-defensive gameplan Chivas coach Robin Fraser has used so far, as Smith hasn't had much support in the attack. Another factor is that the other projected starting winger, Michael Lahoud, has been injured so far this season, but the pair teamed up extremely well during the preseason. Lahoud could be back in the lineup Sunday, so that should help Smith and the attack dramatically. But his ability to run at defenders and go for goal as well as sending good service into the box means he looks like he will be a key player for Chivas in 2012.
2. All 3 of Chivas' first games this season has ended in 1-0, either for Chivas USA, or against them. Do you think there is really any correlation between the low scoring games and how Robin Fraser sets up his team?
There is absolutely a correlation. Chivas ended the preseason by losing 5-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes, which reinforced the significant concerns heading into the season about the team's defense. As a result, Fraser has gone for a very defensive formation, and really prioritized defense over offense so far this season, to mixed results. Both losses were narrow and Chivas really should have gotten a point out of each match, all things considered. But they made it work last week, and scored against the run of play to get a victory. I wouldn't expect anything different against Sporting Kansas City.
Chivas will likely start a single striker up top, and it will most likely be rookie Casey Townsend again. If Lahoud or Alejandro Moreno are fit after battling injuries, one of them might start in midfield and give Chivas another attacking-minded player on the field. But in addition to a four-man backline, they will almost certainly use two defensive midfielders, Oswaldo Minda and Peter Vagenas, and Nick LaBrocca will likely play in the center of the midfield as a two-way midfielder. That would leave three players with an attacking objective (four if you include LaBrocca). I think Chivas will try to keep possession as much as possible, but they are going to try to neutralize SKC's attack first before worrying about their own.
3. Going into this weekend's match it would be hard to argue that Sporting KC aren't one of the hottest teams in the league right now, does Chivas have anything up their sleeve that can help them pull out a surprise win on Sunday?
Hey, it worked last week against Real Salt Lake. Chivas were given no chance in that match, and while they had a few lucky bounces go their way in that one, it was an excellent team performance. Although there is some apprehension that Sunday's match could be something of a letdown if Chivas can't get a result, and while they have lost both of their home games so far, they should have confidence after beating RSL. Chivas played Kansas City well last season, although they only earned a point, and hopefully Fraser can take some of the lessons from those meetings to give them a good gameplan this week. I wouldn't say that a win is in the bag by any means, but I think if they play well again Sunday, there's no reason why they couldn't get a win or draw. Those of us who watch Chivas week in and week out know they are better than most think, and hopefully they can continue their upward momentum here in the initial weeks of the 2012 season.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!