Justin F.: Last year, Sporting Kansas City won the MLS Cup and this year, they currently lead the Eastern Conference with 17 points. What has allowed SKC to dominate the league as they have been doing?
Ben Gartland: One of the biggest reasons why has been the large turnover in players from year to year. Sporting KC's normal lineup in 2014 is only one player different than in 2013 and Eric Kronberg has been filling in admirably for Jimmy Nielsen so far this season. Another reason is that Peter Vermes had developed these players to succeed in his system and has gone out to find players that will succeed in his system like Aurelien Collin, Uri Rosell and Benny Feilhaber. Once acclimated, these players form a team that is physical, aggressive, and full of pressure on the attacking half. The midfielders are expected to go box-to-box and defend as well as attack and the wing backs are pushed forward. The players fit the system and the younger players are being molded into the system. It allows for the defense to remain tough while keeping pressure on the opposing team's defense. Sometimes it doesn't work but it has an overall success rate.
JF: Who would you consider SKC's most valuable player and why?
BG: At this point in the season, Benny Feilhaber has earned that title based on the fact that there is no one on the bench who can come in and replicate his success as attacking midfielder. For Graham Zusi you have serviceable wingers who will come in while he is gone at the World Cup. There are also serviceable center backs who will replace Besler during the World Cup. They aren't players we want over an entire season but they'll do in a pinch.
There's no one on the bench who can come close to what Feilhaber has done this year. He creates chances, sends in great passes, ruins opportunities for other teams, and is a general nuisance for other squads. Without him the entire attack changes.
JF: Hey! Matt Besler and Graham Zusi were recently announced to be on Jurgen Klinsmann's 30-man USMNT roster for the 2014 World Cup! Thoughts on how they will fare this summer?
BG: I think Zusi is going to do better than Besler based purely on their position. Ghana is always strong on the counter-attack, meaning Besler will have to get back quickly and defend. Germany has one of the strongest attacks in Europe and Portugal has this relatively unknown forward named Ronaldo, who I've heard is pretty good.
Zusi's position is going to be setting up chances and mucking up the midfield on the side. While still tough against those three sides, he is going to be in a position to have more success because the midfields of Ghana and Portugal are a bit weaker than their attack.
At the end though it will all depend if Zusi can rack up assists and/or goals. If he can, he will be remembered more for this World Cup. If he is shut down, but Besler puts on a good defensive performance, he will get the legacy from this Cup.
JF: Lineup and score prediction would be much appreciated. Thank you!
Kronberg - Sinovic, Besler, Collin, Myers - Feilhaber, Nagamura, Rosell - Zusi, Dwyer, Peterson.
Score: 2-0 SKC.
For more on Sporting Kansas City in the run up to tomorrow's clash, please check out The Blue Testament!