Competition: Major League Soccer – Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City
Venue: CenturyLink Field – Sunday, March 6 – 19:00 ET (00:00 GMT)
Match Odds: Seattle 5/6 – Draw 5/2– Kansas City 16/5
Seattle Sounders kick off their 2016 campaign by welcoming Western Conference rivals Sporting Kansas City to CenturyLink Field on Sunday evening.
Both these sides fell short in the playoffs last season. Reaching the 2016 playoffs will be the minimum requirement once again and both sides can send out a real signal of intent here.
The Sounders will be looking to improve on last season’s fourth place finish in the Western Conference and a key start to the campaign is vital for getting early points on the board.
Sigi Schmid will be relatively pleased with Seattle’s preseason – they won their last two games after struggling with three consecutive defeats. Preseason can’t be looked into in too much depth as it doesn’t compare to the intensity of the real action, so it will be interesting to see how Seattle get going here.
Their two CONCACAF Champions League games against Club America will have helped preparations despite crashing out 5-3 on aggregate.
Sounders started the 2015 campaign with a 3-0 win and will look to replicate that this weekend. Their midseason wobble, where they lost six in seven games, probably cost them the Supporters’ Shield – they cannot afford a repeat of that this time around.
Sporting Kansas City struggled to get going in their 2015 campaign. It took them four attempts to get their first win and they will be looking to get off to a flyer here in what is a tricky opener.
Kansas City are unbeaten in their last three outings against Seattle, winning one and drawing two, and a win here would be a remarkable confidence booster to get things going for their 2016 regular season.
Peter Vermes’ side had an unbeaten preseason and will be looking to use that momentum heading into this tie. They finished 6th in the Western Conference last season and will be looking to improve on that and challenge for the Supporters’ Shield this time around.
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Seattle Sounders have no injury concerns heading into the new campaign. The squad has undergone a little reshape though. The departure of Obafemi Martins will be a big role to fill and it appears Schmid is entrusting Jordan Morris with that task. He penned the highest paid contact for a homegrown player in Major League Soccer history so big things are expected from him. Joevin Jones and Michael Farfan will be hoping to make their Sounders debuts.
Sporting Kansas City will also be pleased not to have any major injuries heading into this one. However Ike Opara and Graham Zusi are doubts after picking up knocks towards the end of preseason. The squad has had minimal change which could be a plus for them this season, as players will continue to develop a great understanding of each other on the field. New signings Justin Mapp and Brad Davis will hope to feature.
Seattle Sounders’ preseason form: L/L/L/W/W
Sporting Kansas City’s preseason form: W/D/D/D
Key Stat: Goals – Seattle have scored at least two goals in six of their last seven home Major League Soccer outings.
Key Player: Clint Dempsey – The obvious choice! Dempsey is easily the Sounders’ key man, as he makes them tick. His role in an injury-hit 2015 campaign was still immense. In the 20 games he featured in, Seattle only lost three times and he contributed to them finding the net 20 times, with ten goals and ten assists.
Forward Clint Dempsey celebrates his second goal after scoring from close range on a corner kick. Image courtesy of Sounders FC Communications. Photo: Jane Gershovich.
Seattle Sounders 2-1 Sporting Kansas City – Seattle to start their 2016 regular season with a win. They won their last two games of preseason before their Champions League clashes, and they will have put them into good shape. The Sounders should make home advantage count in an action packed game. The last meeting between these sides was a 0-0 draw and Seattle will not want to continue their winless run against SKC in an important opener.