Injuries are a common link between the Sounders FC and Sporting Kansas City.
But while Seattle has found depth to remain afloat through a grueling stretch of its MLS schedule, Kansas City has floundered. Sporting KC is on a seven-match winless streak and has 10 players on the MLS injury list as it prepares to host the Sounders on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park.
“We don’t want to go into the Kansas City game going, ‘Oh, there’s 10 injuries so it’s going to be easy,’” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said via phone Saturday. “That would be disappointing for me. … It’s always been a challenge here to see which team comes out on top.”
Seattle (7-1-5) has a storied history against Kansas City (2-4-5), whether it’s SKC’s win via penalty kicks in the 2012 Open Cup final or Seattle’s controversial playoff win against Sporting en route to the Sounders’ 2016 MLS championship.
In MLS regular-season play, the Sounders have the edge in going unbeaten by Sporting in the past three meetings. Seattle won 3-1 at home in September.
And Sunday, the Sounders will look more like the team that’s second in the Western Conference standings. The team has had a week to prepare for Kansas City and traveled defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson, who missed the previous five matches with a hamstring injury.
Also available for selection is new designated player Xavier Arreaga. The Ecuadorian defender arrived in Seattle on Wednesday, offering a sharp pivot from disappointing news of Chad Marshall’s retirement. Marshall, a three-time MLS Defender of the Year, helped the Sounders get off to a franchise-best 5-0-1 start this season before deciding to hang them up due to chronic inflammation in his knee.
Seattle will still be without forward Jordan Morris, who will miss his second match because of a strained hamstring.
“(Gustav) has looked good,” Schmetzer said. “I don’t know if I’m going to start him because Jordy (Delem) has done well in his absence. But if one player is better than the other, you’ve got to do what’s right for the team.”
Seattle is in the midst of a four-game road stint. It managed a scoreless draw at Philadelphia last week despite a depleted lineup. Sounders keeper Stefan Frei tallied six heroic saves as Schmetzer opened the match with a defensive lineup.
The Sounders are expected to play more of their pressing style against SKC. The home side does have a quality goalkeeper in Tim Melia, an eight-year MLS veteran. But it is without a proven scorer to pressure Seattle.
Hungarian forward Krisztian Nemeth will serve a one-game suspension Sunday after being shown a red card against Vancouver last week. Nemeth scored for SKC in the opening half of the eventual 1-1 draw and was ejected in the 51st minute.
Nemeth’s seven goals this season are tied for third among MLS players.
Scottish forward Johnny Russell has played well recently while Gianluca Busio, a 16-year-old American forward, has scored three goals and made four starts for SKC this season.
“The big question mark is who do they put up front?” Schmetzer said. “But their goalkeeping is outstanding. So it’s not like they have a bad team even with all these injuries.”