Prep Talk: Sporting KC vs Toronto FC - March 20, 2016

Ahead of Sunday's showdown (6 p.m. CT) at Children's Mercy Park, we caught up with Toronto Sun columnist Kurtis Larson to talk Dom Dwyer, Toronto FC's form, Sebastian Giovinco, and preview the match. 

What is Toronto FC's form heading into this match?

I think Head Coach Greg Vanney has been pretty honest in his assessment of the team and how he's going to approach these road games to start the season. He's been honest in saying that the team is going to sit back and absorb pressure and look for their spots to get forward. I think you saw that in the first two games in New York. They went to Red Bull Arena, didn't have much possession or create too many chances but the quality of Sebastian Giovinco comes through and they score two late goals thanks to his brilliance. Then they go to New York City FC last week, make a few mistakes and go down early but keep solid defensively and find a way back into the game through Giovinco. I think that's what you'll see on Sunday night at Children's Mercy Park. A Toronto FC team that's organized and trying not to concede goals and will take their chances with Giovinco going forward. It will also be interesting to see how Altidore fits in the mix. 

Toronto FC made the playoffs last season for the first time in club history but conceded 58 goals (tied for most last season). Is there a strong emphasis this season to shore up the defense?

The playoff exit last year was devastating for everyone around and following the club. The team thought they had a good chance to make some noise in the playoffs and went into the final game of the regular season at Montreal. They lost that game and then were back in Montreal for the knockout round and got embarrassed in a 3-0 loss. Everything was off in that game and it was a perfect storm in the club's first playoff game. They're looking to rectify that this season and go further in the playoffs. Conceding 58 goals last year was unacceptable by the club's standards. They went out and got Steven Beitashour and Drew Moor to help things at the back. It's worked so far and Beitashour has played some big time minutes. Damien Perquis looks more comfortable next to a veteran in Drew Moor and Clint Irwin at goalkeeper has come up with some big saves through the first two games of the season. It's hard to say what they'll look like at home compared to on the road. They're kind of in a defensive posture right now. You're not going to see guys like Michael Bradley break out too often or Will Johnson push forward often. You're really going to see those midfielders sit in front of the back four. 

How do you see the Toronto defenders matching up against forward Dom Dwyer?

Dom Dwyer's the kind of striker that Toronto FC hasn't faced this season. They played against Red Bulls in the first game of the year and had a guy like Bradley Wright-Phillips who is a little different than Dwyer, maybe not as tenacious and willing to dig out certain balls. Then they go to Yankee Stadium and face a guy like David Villa who is more crafty and wants to pick his moments and try to outsmart you. Dom Dwyer, is in my opinion the kind of player that is going to chase down every ball and he's going to annoy and frustrate the defenders as much as he can. He's really tenacious in what he does. When you think of Dom Dwyer, the words energy and enthusiasm comes to mind. It seems that always he gets on the end of a ball you don't expect him to get on and he can punish defenders when they make a lapse or are lackadaisical at the back.

What are you going to be watching from Sunday's match?

First and foremost, I'm going to be interested to see if Sporting KC can break down Toronto FC's defensive posture. The Red Bulls, one of the best teams last season, weren't really able to do it. They didn't create too many chances. At Yankee Stadium, Toronto FC gives up two goals but they really concede them on a set piece and off a penalty. No one has really been able to break down yet, which has allowed the club to build some momentum and confidence. Last year they were leaking goals left and right and this year they haven't. Especially if Benny Feilhaber doesn't play for Sporting KC, it will be interesting to see who steps up in that midfield role and tries to pull strings. And then it's all about Sebastian Giovinco coming to Kansas City for the first time and to see if guys like Matt Besler can handle his world class abilities. I don't think Kansas City faced too many guys like Giovinco last season and it will be interesting to see if he can continue his MVP form and score in a third straight game to start the season. 

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