Sporting Kansas City is a tough team all around, but it will be down one of its best players, and certainly its most proficient scorer, over the course of the last few seasons. SKC will be without Dom Dwyer when it comes to Orlando this weekend. The English international had a breakout season in 2014, when he scored 22 goals for Sporting. While he hasn’t reached that mark since, he is still very much a threat with his speed and ability to get behind the defense. This season, Dwyer has five goals in 10 games and is well on his way to another huge season.
While Dwyer’s absence due to yellow card accumulation will be a problem for Kansas City, the good news is that it should help the Lions recover from their blowout loss this past weekend in Houston. Not only will Dwyer’s absence be problematic, but Kansas City has yet to prove its worth on the road this season. So far, the team has drawn twice, lost twice, and won one game on the road — but that win came amid Portland's tough environment.
Much like Portland, Orlando City provides a very tough atmosphere to play in for traveling teams. The new stadium has been a source of power for the Lions as they have been undefeated at home thus far, winning all five matches. In those five matches, the Lions have only been scored on twice — this will add to the pressure that Kansas City already faces without the likes of Dwyer.
One has to imagine that Soony Saad is the Dwyer replacement in the Sporting lineup. Saad has yet to score this season in six appearances, which include three starts. Kansas City is going to have to have other players step up in the goal-scoring department if it expects to score on the Lions in Orlando.
The two other possible Dwyer replacements could be a little bit of a curveball, but don't be surprised if Latif Blessing or Daniel Salloi find a way into the starting XI for KC. Blessing is smaller forward that can provide speed similar to that of Dwyer and Salloi is a larger forward that would be seen as more of a target striker. Both could help KC, but both are unproven in MLS.
What does all of this mean for the Lions?
The Lions now have one less threat to worry about as a defensive unit. With the likes of Jonathan Spector expected to return to the starting XI after resting this past weekend, City fans should expect a well-led back line and a tougher unit overall as Spector has been outstanding with his play this season. Sporting KC is set to miss out on both speed and a proven goal scorer in MLS. Without a proven goal scorer up front, a player like Benny Feilhaber will be looked at as someone to step up, along with players like Gerso and Roger Espinoza.
The Lions are looking for a bounce-back game and, in some ways, revenge. The revenge may not be because of anything that KC did, but more so because Orlando played as badly as it did this past weekend on the road. The Lions want to make their wrongs right. The perfect venue to do such things is Orlando City Stadium.
So, if the question is whether or not Dom Dwyer’s absence is crucial for a Lions’ win, then the answer is yes. The Lions, who rose through the ranks to an early No. 1 spot in MLS, have fallen hard with back-to-back losses in an eight-day span that saw them play three games. Orlando City will now have a full week’s rest in hand, which is plenty of time to think about the team’s play in Houston, rest those muscles, and get back on track.
The expectation of Orlando City is to win and do so convincingly. A win will bolster the confidence before a tough trip across the country to San Jose only four days later. With another stretch of games in a congested period, the Lions don’t have much of a choice but to start out this long stretch with a win.