To begin its homestand of three matches in nine days, Sounders FC hosts fellow Western Conference side Sporting Kansas City, a team Seattle has had plenty of success against. SKC is winless in its last eight MLS games versus the Rave Green, the longest such streak against any opponent in Sporting’s history.
Here are three positional battles that could be vital to the Sounders as they aim to keep that streak alive and earn a victory on Saturday.
Osvaldo Alonso vs. Benny Feilhaber
Heading into this weekend, Alonso is on pace to lead the league in passing accuracy for the second straight year (He’s at 92.1 percent for this season). Last weekend, he and Gonzalo Pineda controlled the flow of play as Seattle earned a 2-0 win at Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Alonso’s defensive skills will be put to the test on Saturday, as Feilhaber has been one of the most dynamic midfielders in the league this season. As a team SKC leads MLS with 1.72 assists per game, and Feilhaber’s league-high seven assists are the main reason why.
Chad Barrett vs. Matt Besler
Besler, who played with fellow American Clint Dempsey at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, is SKC’s captain and the heart of the team’s backline. A native of Kansas City, the 28-year old has been with his hometown club for his entire professional career and has earned plenty of accolades along the way, including MLS Defender of the Year honors in 2012. Obafemi Martins is unlikely to play on Saturday due to injury, meaning Besler will likely be up against the forward pair of Barrett and Dempsey. The reigning MLS Player of the Week, Barrett scored the game-winner in stoppage time as Seattle won 1-0 over SKC in last year’s season opener.
Seattle outside mids vs. Jalil Anibaba
After playing 16 games for Sounders FC in 2014, Anibaba is the starting right back for Sporting KC this season. The fifth-year pro was on the pitch for the full 90 minutes in each of the last nine games. Saturday night, Anibaba will defend a group of wingers he is quite familiar with in Lamar Neagle, Marco Pappa and Andy Rose. Fatigue could be a factor in the match, as Anibaba is among the SKC starters that played 90 minutes in the team’s midweek tilt against New England on Wednesday.