We exchanged questions Ben Gartland with Sporting KC SB Nation brother-site The Blue Testament. As you're about to read, we didn't even touch on douchebaggery.
HT: Who in the bloody hell is going to play defense for you guys? I mean, really. I was excited to see Erik Palmer-Brown play, and now apparently he’s questionable. How many MLS teams have to turn to their fifth centerback? I’m almost feeling sorry for you. Fill us in on the fill-ins.
TBT: Honestly I'm feeling as clueless as you are. We have Erik Palmer-Brown, who practiced with the team this week and looks good to go for Sunday. The 17 year old has not seen a lick of action in any competition with Sporting KC but at this point we're out of options.
The next move will probably be Uri Rosell moving back to centerback, where he played in the Barca academy but hasn't played there since coming to SKC. Toni Dovale will probably start in Rosell's role but this isn't the ideal situation at all.
HT: How is the transition for Claudio Bieler from stud DP acquisition to humbled part-time starter going? (Please note: This is a transition we in Chicago are accustomed to observing.) Is Dwyer’s form just that imperious, that Bieler can’t get off the bench? Or has he been a disappointment?
TBT: Dwyer has been such a success at center forward that there is no reason for him to lose his starting spot just because someone else is making DP money on the bench. In his latest start against Philadelphia, Bieler had no spark and didn't bring a lot of offense to the match. I wouldn't say Bieler has been a disappointment, Dwyer just hit his form at an impeccable time.
HT: Who, in your opinion, are Sporting’s primary rivals in MLS? Who’s the teams the fanbase get all frothy-mouthed to beat?
TBT: Chicago has been our oldest rivalry but the flame (get it?) has been calmed in favor of recent rivalries that have sprung up. Seattle always seems to beat us in stoppage time so there's a lot of animosity there. Real Salt Lake and Sporting have had a lot of close matches lately including the MLS cup, which has them at the forefront of fan hate.
The biggest rival, however, is Houston. Every match between the two is close, the playoff series matchups are always intense and the teams are both really good at the same time. I would guess that most Sporting fans would say Houston is our main rival.
And here's our reverse answers, also available here on The Blue Testament:
The Blue Testament: Chicago’s offense has looked decent as of late and hasn’t been shut out all season. How do you expect that to translate to a game where Sporting KC is going to be missing several defenders?
Hot Time: It’s unlikely to mean anything good for your guys. The Fire’s attack was good last year, with Mike Magee in the form of his life and lots of supporting players around him - but I think it’s better this year, flexible and cunning. Magee has another schemer in the mix; Harrison Shipp is perhaps the smartest rookie I’ve ever seen. Watching the two of them working is like watching a safecracking team. Quincy Amarikwa is a freak athlete, and started the season in scorching-hot form. And Patrick Nyarko, while a known commodity, is exactly the kind of right winger most left backs absolutely hate to play against.
There’s no particular approach that recommends itself, either. Playing deep will allow Shipp and Magee to study the space and find chances; pressing high will open up acres of green for Nyarko and Amarikwa to run onto. At this point, Sporting’s best bet is probably to try and outscore Chicago. KC’s wing play, in particular, could cause problems for a Fire defense that has looked exposed on the flanks at times. I’m so jealous of your capture of Igor Julião, I can’t tell you.
TBT: The Fire finally broke that barrier and got the first win of 2014 against New York. Will this set up a confidence that the team can go and win these games?
HT: I have this strong feeling that the real answer (“Yes!”) is trite beyond belief, and so I’d like to have something more clever to say. Thing is, this team was playing pretty decent football before the win. Finally breaking through - and in so doing, seeing your attack you felt so positive about suddenly erupt for five goals - was more a confirmation of the team’s opinion of itself than a surprise.
TBT: How has Frank Yallop looked as head coach so far this season? I know it’s early but how would you compare him to Klopas last year?
HT: Frank Klopas is a worshipper at the shrine of the Golden Moment, wherein all games are won and lost in a handful of heartbeats scattered throughout 90 minutes of otherwise dutiful trudging. That focus may explain why, under Klopas, the Fire displayed a shrugging indifference to controlling play, or preventing any particular approach by their opponents, yet somehow produced results better than their performances.
Frank Yallop takes a different approach, starting from performance and reasoning outward toward to results. The hope is that, luck being a self-levelling factor, Chicago is owed some fortune. Let’s grade this one Incomplete.
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