Fantasy Sporting KC trio
USA Today Sports

MLS Fantasy: Do Sporting KC have enough firepower without Kei Kamara & Claudio Bieler?

PRIMER: MLS Conference Championship

Last week, we looked at the top transfers for the second leg of the Western Conference Championship matchup between Portland and Real Salt Lake (above). Now it's time to examine Saturday's Eastern Conference Championship second leg between Sporting Kansas City and Houston (7:30 pm ET, NBCSN, Univision Deportes, TSN2 in Canada).

According to the table below, it's reasonable to think that most fantasy owners consider Sporting the favorites in this matchup, although Dynamo fans would almost emphatically disagree.

Top Transfers In - (SKC vs. HOU)

  Player Position Selected Price Total Score Transfers IN
Sporting Kansas City Seth Sinovic Defender 7.4% $5.8 161 284
Sporting Kansas City Jimmy Nielsen Goalkeeper 14.5% $5.7 168 260
Houston Dynamo Will Bruin Forward 15.4% $8.7 133 244
Sporting Kansas City Matt Besler Defender 15.9% $5.9 174 242
Sporting Kansas City Aurélien Collin Defender 37.7% $6.8 202 235
Sporting Kansas City Graham Zusi Midfielder 39.7% $9.5 190 233
Sporting Kansas City Claudio Bieler Forward 10.5% $8.0 117 232
Sporting Kansas City Oriol Rosell Midfielder 6.6% $6.2 118 134
Sporting Kansas City Chance Myers Defender 6.1% $5.0 134 116
Houston Dynamo Bobby Boswell Defender 11.9% $5.8 150 115

Through four head-to-head matchups between the two teams in 2013, all but one have resulted in a draw:

1) May 12: 1-0 SKC win at BBVA Compass stadium

  • Goals - Aurelien Collin (assisted by Seth Sinovic)

2) May 26: 1-1 draw at Sporting Park

  • Goals - Brad Davis and Kei Kamara (direct assists - Will Bruin and Claudio Bieler)

3) October 9: 0-0 draw at BBVA Compass stadium

4) November 9: 0-0 draw at BBVA Compass stadium

No matter which way you're leaning in this game, there's a good chance it's going to be close. I'd consider SKC a slight favorite based on home-field advantage, but my honest opinion is that it could go either way.

There's no denying SKC's ability to defend the ball. For starters, they conceded a league-low 30 goals during the regular season: 15 at home (tied for fifth best in MLS) and 15 away (first in MLS). Here are a few more stats that favor SKC from a defensive standpoint:

2013 MLS Regular Season

  • Eight clean sheets (at home) - Tied for third best in MLS
  • 13 clean sheets (overall) - Tied for third best in MLS
  • 125 shots faced (at home) - Best in MLS
  • 301 shots faced (overall) - Best in MLS
  • 41 shots faced on target (at home) - Second best in MLS
  • 100 shots faced on target (overall) - Best in MLS

If Saturday's result were based solely on defensive statistics SKC would be heavy favorites, but offensively I'm a bit concerned.

Remember Kei Kamara? You know, the guy Sporting sold to Middlesbrough in early September. Or how about Claudio Bieler? The guy who's played 148 total minutes in four appearances over the last 12 matches. Offensively, these two players have accounted for a large portion of SKC's production in 2013.

SKC have scored 29 goals at Sporting Park this season, 48.3 percent (14/29) of which have come directly from Bieler and Kamara. Soony Saad and Graham Zusi are tied for second in scoring with three each. Current offensive options Dominic Dwyer, C.J. Sapong, Teal Bunbury and Jacob Peterson have combined to score a total of four (13.8 percent).

Despite the loss of production from Kamara and Bieler, Sporting still managed to bag 15 goals in their last 11 games dating back to August 31, although Bieler did contribute on two of them. In that same stretch, the've only been held scoreless three times: two times away at Houston and once at home against the Philadelphia Union (1-0 on September 27).

SKC have scored in every single home game except one, dating back to their 1-0 win over Houston on May 12. And in their last 10 games at Sporting Park in front of their home crowd, they've tallied two or more goals a whopping seven times.

So what do the facts lead us to believe will happen on Saturday night at Sporting Park? Is a 1-0 win for the home team the most likely outcome or do you think the visiting team will sneak one in? Tell us in the comments.


Stay connected: The official MLS app keeps you connected with the latest news, highlights, scores, standings, and analysis all for FREE. Download for iOS (Apple) or Download for Android