Armchair Analyst: Can Sporting Kansas City cope without Graham Zusi and Matt Besler?

This, from Montreal owner and president Joey Saputo, sums up the Impact's 2014 thus far:

Besler's long throw is an elite chance generation weapon, and has been since he came into the league. You're basically giving up a set piece any time you put the ball into touch vs. Sporting.

That's saved this team repeatedly over the years, as KC can struggle to get quality looks from the run of play. When that happens their default is to press up higher and harder, trying to force turnovers or, at the very least, panicked clearances. A lot of those panicked clearances become long throws.

That's where they're going to feel Besler's absence the most.


3. Possession With A Purpose

Over the last few years, KC have been at or near the top of the standings in raw possession. This has led to a lot of folks talking about what a possession team they are, and yadda yadda, all the other stuff that goes along with that particular conversation.

But they weren't really a "possession" team. They rarely used the ball to kill off a game, and rarely varied the tempo. Everything with Sporting happened at 1000 miles per hour.

Not so in 2014. The major difference has been the consistency of Feilhaber and Uri Rosell who, along with Paulo Nagamura, have formed the best midfield in the league this year.

They're at the heart of stuff like this:

Granted, this was against a pretty bad 10-man Montreal side, but that's still 55 consecutive completed passes. KC forced the Impact to chase for three straight minutes, wearing down a tired team instead of lumping the ball into the corners and trying to rain down half-chances.

That's different. So is this: Sporting have usually had more of the ball than their opponents since, let's say, early 2011, but they've often struggled to use that possession to create excellent chances. Too often long strings of passes have become hopeful crosses - not a bad strategy during the Kei Kamara/C.J. Sapong heyday, but less effective now.

You can see Feilhaber put Zusi into Zone 14 in the top GIF above. Here's Benny working in that area himself from last week:

And obviously that's Rosell with the secondary assist on the GIF of Dwyer's goal.

They'll be missing a lot with Zusi and Besler in Brazil - those guys are good. But so are the ones still left at Peter Vermes' disposal in KC.

Series: 

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