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D.C. United versus Sporting Kansas City preview: Behind Enemy Lines w/Kansas City blog The Blue Testament

In which we preview the upcoming D.C. United match against a depleted Sporting Kansas City.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

We talk to Ben Gartland of The Blue Testament to get his views on all things Sporting Kansas City.

Questions for The Blue Testament

B&RU: How is Sporting Kansas City going to deal with its World Cup absences of Graham Zusi and Matt Besler?

TBT: With Zusi, the team hasn’t been in as bad of shape since we have a couple of quality wingers who can step in and produce. Toni Dovale has been a very nice addition, as has Sal Zizzo. Soony Saad and Jaocb Peterson are also available to come off the bench and produce, so we don’t have much problem creating chances on the wing. There’s also Benny Feilhaber in the midfield who has been outstanding this season. Obviously we’re missing the creative style of Graham Zusi, but it’s not a death sentence for these couple of months.

With Matt Besler, several other factors have made his loss a much bigger one. SKC had Aurelien Collin go down for a couple of weeks, so they had no starting center backs. Ike Opara was already out for the season and fourth-stringer Lawrence Olum got called up to Kenya. Then, Erik Palmer-Brown got a red card in his debut so SKC had no real center backs for their match with Toronto. SKC definitely dropped points because of their defensive situations so dealing with the loss of Matt Besler has been extremely hard so far. With Collin back from injury and Olum returning after this weekend’s match, hopefully we’ll see a stable back line for the remainder of the World Cup.

B&RU: Is this team looking to make a big move during the summer transfer window, or do you think that they are set as they are?

TBT: Just last night, Robb Heinemann tweeted about a possible player coming in during the summer transfer window. If I had to take a guess as to what position, it would probably be Nagamura’s position in the midfield. There have been rumors of someone coming in to take his spot for a while just because he’s getting older and sometimes gets caught on the counters. A younger presence in the midfield would be nice, but Nagamura is still a quality midfielder and they won’t replace him just for replacing’s sake.

If they were to make a minor move, I could see them make a move to get some more fullback depth. With Chance Myers out for the season, they’ll need someone to back up Seth Sinovic and Igor Juliao and they have the roster space to do it. Vermes isn’t one for big summer moves so I think this type of move is more likely.

B&RU: SKC seems to always have an impressive slew of attacking talent; are you worried about any of them not getting enough time? What is the outlook on CJ Sapong these days?

TBT: The only one I’m worried about not getting significant playing time is Claudio Bieler, who is earning DP money to be beat out by Dom Dwyer. I’m not saying to play him just because of the money he’s making, but it is kind of sad to see someone Sporting KC invested a lot in and got a lot of people excited over not doing much over his two seasons here. I would hate to lose him but the fact of the matter is that Dwyer has been playing better and seems to fit Vermes’ system better.

In regards to Sapong he’s been battling some injuries so far this year and he’s been boxed out at pretty much all of his positions. When Bieler and Dwyer came in in 2013, he lost any chance of being center forward and now, with the additions of Toni and Zizzo, the wings are crowded as well. I would actually be in favor of trading Sapong since he has a lot of value and a lot of athleticism, just doesn’t really have a place at Sporting KC.

B&RU: Injuries/projected XI/prediction for the game

TBT: Rosell (Doubtful)
Opara (Out)
Sapong (Doubtful)
Myers (Out)
Besler (USMNT)
Olum (Kenya)
Zusi (USMNT)

(4-3-3) Kronberg - Juliao, Collin, Ellis, Sinovic; Nagamura, Martinez, Feilhaber; Dovale, Dwyer, Zizzo

Score: 1-1 draw.

Questions for Black and Red United

TBT: Looks like Eddie Johnson will be available this weekend after having his red card suspension rescinded. How does this change the game plan for DC United and do you think his form will improve as the season goes on?

B&RU: It won't really change D.C. United's approach, as they will be defaulting back to their setup for most of the year so far. And EJ's form can only get better, as he has looked frustrated throughout the season so far. I was hoping that his first goal would lift some of that frustration, but that hasn't happened yet. Hopefully he can get going against SKC's makeshift back line.

TBT: DC United has only allowed five goals in seven home games. What’s different this year that allows DC United to be much better defensively than last year?

B&RU: In a word, everything. In the last matchup between SKC and D.C. United last season, DCU started a back line of Denis Iapichino, Daniel Woolard, Perry Kitchen, and Chris Korb. And that was with Dejan Jakovic hurt, after Brandon McDonald had been traded, and after Alain Rochat had made a brief appearance in the District. Out of all of those players, only Perry Kitchen and Chris Korb remain on the team, and only Perry Kitchen is a starter (as a midfielder). The presence of Jeff Parke and Bobby Boswell in particular has provided the team with rocks in the center of defense, and has really allowed the team to defend without putting the entire team back. Having Sean Franklin and Cristian Fernandez as fullbacks has helped as well, in both the attack and defense.

TBT: Although DC United has really turned it around this season, there has to be some weakness. If you’re Peter Vermes, how are you planning to beat DCU?

B&RU: Speed through the middle. The first goal that the New England Revolution scored began because of Diego Fagundez's speed, allowing him to blow past United's defense. Dom Dwyer should be able to have a similar effect on United unless the midfield is working in perfect tandem with the defense, which is what they did against the Houston Dynamo. If United can force Sporting into crosses from wide positions that Parke and Boswell can head away, it is likely that the game will be going United's way.

TBT: Lineups and a scoreline?

B&RU: Injuries: Chris Pontius (Out), Sean Franklin (Questionable), Chris Rolfe (Questionable), Conor Doyle (Probable), Luis Silva (Probable)

Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Cristian Fernandez; Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, Chris Rolfe; Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson

It will be a tough battle, but with United at home and SKC's makeshift defense I would go with a 2-1 United victory.