I had the opportunity to exchange three questions with Ben Gartland of The Daily Wiz. Below you can find his answers to my questions.
Justin: Hard to believe the Union and Sporting Kansas City last played in a March season opener. What, if anything, about Sporting Kansas City has changed since their 3-1 win six months ago?
Ben: The biggest difference is that Sporting finally has a competent winger on the left side in Soony Saad. They've had a good person at wing on the right, whether it was Zusi or Kamara, but the first half of the season left a lot to be desired on the left. Soony Saad got a chance and really solidified himself as a solid option on the left side. Now, Sporting's offense is better organized and you know what you're going to get as opposed to the unpredictability of Bobby Convey, CJ Sapong and Jacob Peterson.
Justin: Who would you consider the most valuable player on Sporting Kansas City and why?
Ben: That's a tough one but I'm going to go with Graham Zusi, who barely beats out Matt Besler. Zusi can transition from the midfield to winger with ease and produce quality chances and pressure in both scenarios. Besler is a phenomenal center back but Sporting has adequate depth at the position, whereas there is no real replacement for Zusi since Kamara is gone. When those two get called up to the national team, Sporting's offense suffers more than the defense.
With Kei Kamara gone to Middlesbrough, Zusi will probably move back to the wing. If Zusi gets called up in October, the wing depth leaves some to be desired. The center back depth, in my opinion, is in better shape, which gives Zusi the value edge.
Justin: If you can answer this without laughing at me, is there any part of the field where you believe the Union can take advantage of Sporting Kansas City?
Ben: Not necessarily a place on the field, but in a tactical sense there is a way that the Union can beat Sporting. Sporting has had troubles defending against high lines this season (See losses to Portland and New York) and it's a byproduct of Verme's pressuring offense. Sporting has trouble recovering against a high line and can get beat on counters. If Le Toux gets a ball in space on a counter, he can score all day.
Justin: Lastly, how about a starting XI and final score prediction?
Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Nagamura, Joseph, Feilhaber, Saad, Sapong, Zusi.
Score: Sporting KC 2-1 Philadelphia.