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Opposite View: Three Questions with Ben Gartland of The Blue Testament

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This week we talk with Ben Gartland of The Blue Testament, SB Nation's Sporting Kansas City blog, about the upcoming match between SKC and the Philadelphia Union.

Capos or the pep squad?
Capos or the pep squad?
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

tBG) Sporting Kansas City saw quite a few moves during the offseason, both incoming and outgoing. Overall, is this a better club than the 2014 version? What did the moves add to the club?

tBT) It really depends on when in 2014 you look at the roster. The big piece that has still not been replaced is Uri Rosell as a defensive midfielder. If we’re talking about the end of 2014 then this club is definitely better. Luis Marin is an improvement in goal over Eric Kronberg/Andy Gruenebaum, Jalil Anibaba is a decent piece of squad depth, Roger Espinoza is an upgrade in the midfield and the returning Ike Opara has been Aurelien Collin level both offensively and defensively. The left wing still has a hole with inconsistent play and instead of having a hole at defensive midfielder, it’s now at attacking midfielder with Benny Feilhaber slotted back. I would say that the team is overall better than the end of 2014, but I’m not sure if it’s better than the beginning of 2014. There’s a lot of turnover and still some holes that need to be plugged.

tBG) How are things in the Western Conference? What effect do you think this will have on SKC from a competition standpoint, also factoring in travel?

tBT) I don’t see too much of a difference so far except that I have to scroll down further when I go to the MLS standings page. Where I do think I’ll start seeing it is towards the end of the season with the level of strong teams towards the top of the conference such as Los Angeles, Seattle, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake all battling it out with us for the top of the conference. Travel-wise, Sporting KC is in a similar boat either way considering their position in the middle of the country. Instead of going to the east coast with a couple stops in the middle and Texas, they’re going west with a couple stops in the middle and Texas. From a competition standpoint the West, I do believe, has an edge over the East so the competition will likely be harder over each game but I also think that’s indicative of MLS getting better as a whole. Taking out Chivas USA and adding two teams in the East that have been decent so far balances it out a bit. We’ll see more as the season goes on.

tBG) Have Matt Besler and Graham Zusi been able to live up to the hype of being the MLS face of the USMNT during the World Cup?

tBT) Unfortunately not. After the two returned from the World Cup they were both exhausted and it came out that both of them were battling injuries of some kind, Besler with his hamstring and Zusi with his stress fracture in his foot. Zuni really hasn’t found his form since he’s still recovering from injury, although he has still been fairly good. Besler looks almost back to normal and, so far in 2015, has been the solid defensive anchor he normally is outside of an uncharacteristic two yellow cards in the same game. It’s sad that they really haven’t been able to capitalize on the momentum of their performances at the World Cup but I do think they’ll get better as the year goes on, hopefully turning in decent performances at the Gold Cup and performing well for their club as well.

Projected lineup: Luis Marin; Marcel de Jong, Matt Besler, Ike Opara, Jalil Anibaba; Benny Feilhaber, Roger Espinoza, Paulo Nagamura; Bernardo Anor, Dom Dwyer, Jimmy Medranda

Projected score: 1-1