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Sporting KC at Minnesota United: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

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Just four games to go as the season comes to an end.

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MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Minnesota United FC at Sporting KC Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC @ Minnesota United (#MINvSKC)

Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 7:00 PM CT

Fox Sports KC | fuboTV (free trial) | MLS Live

Saturday’s game marks the beginning of the end of the season. Sporting Kansas City have just four games left to play and three of them are on the road. The road had not been kind to Sporting this season. They have amassed a 2-6-6 record and they haven’t won on the road since June 25th against the Galaxy.

They play a suddenly red hot Minnesota United (or is it Southern Canada United? I forget [h/t Eric]) team who have won three of their last four. Despite that, Minnesota have a somewhat disappointing home record of just 7-6-3. They have hardly made TCF Bank Stadium a fortress teams dread to come play in.

That said, one of those wins at home is over Sporting KC. A Kansas City side that fielded a weakened side that included Kevin Ellis at center back and Igor Juliao at right back. There is no doubt neither of those guys will play as Ellis has taken voluntary leave from the team and Juliao was cut after only playing 45 minutes against Minnesota this season. Those two (probably mostly Igor) gave up two goals to Minnesota and Sporting didn’t recover.

Despite the fact that those two won’t be in the back line, it will be a heavily depleated Sporting KC side coming to town as six of their players are on international duty, three of which are regular starters. Minnesota also have four players out for the FIFA break and two of them are regular starters. More on the likely Sporting replacements in a bit.

This game will also mark the meeting between the leagues best defense in SKC (0.80 goals per game) against the leagues worst from Minneosta (2.03 goals per game). Minneosta have a league worst five shut outs. They haven’t had a shut out since July 30th. Despite SKC’s strong defensive record, their last shutout was August 20th and the one prior to that was June 18th. So it’s not like they’ve been keeping the balls out of the net.

International Duty

Sporting KC - Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber (United States), Kevin Oliveira (Cape Verde), James Musa (New Zealand) and Soony Saad (Lebanon)

Minnesota - Michael Boxall (New Zealand), Kevin Molino (Trinidad and Tobago), Francisco Calvo and Johan Venegas (Costa Rica)

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Cameron Porter (broken fibula and ligament damage in right ankle),

QUESTIONABLE: Matt Besler (stitches in head), Soni Mustivar (hamstring)

Minnesota

OUT: Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury), Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles injury), Sam Cronin (head injury)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Suspensions

Sporting KC - Kevin Ellis (technically Ellis and the team have agreed he’ll step away temporarily)

Minnesota - None

Recent Form

Sporting KC - Last Five: L/D/W/W/L (7 Points)

Minnesota - Last Five: L/W/W/L/W (9 Points)

Leading Scorers

  • Sporting KC: Gerso Fernandes (8), Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber, Diego Rubio (5), Latif Blessing, Daniel Salloi (3), Ike Opara (2)
  • Minnesota: Christian Ramirez (14), Abu Danladi (8), Kevin Molino (7)

Starting XI Predictions

With three starters gone on international duty, their replacements feel pretty obvious. Jimmy Medranda in for Feilhaber. Erik Palmer-Brown in for Besler. And Saad Abdul-Salaam in for Zusi. There is always the possibility that Cristian Lobato goes in for Benny, but I doubt it. Colton Storm may deserve a look at right back, but putting in an untested RB against Minnesota worked poorly last time.

The real question as always is the three forwards. Rubio has had a week off and should go, it’s just between Blessing, Salloi and Gerso on the wings. I like the Salloi/Blessing combo with Gerso as a super-sub, but Vermes seems to be going with Gerso lately, so I’ll guess he’ll stick with that.

The other concern is who actually fills out the 18. A raid of Swope Park Rangers players will be necessary to even fill out the bench. It’s possible they go with a short bench but usually when you go on the road, you take enough players in case something goes awry. So even though SPR also have two games in a few days, the first team comes first.

Rest of the 18: Dykstra, Blessing, Oliveira, Didic, Pasher, Belmar, Mustivar

The key to this game is to score early. While Minnesota are undefeated if they lead at the half (4-0-0) they are abysmal when trailing (0-10-3). Lucky for Sporting, they should have their offensive firepower in tact (minus Benny) to press a very leaky back line.

If they score early, I fully believe they can dominate the game and win. The thing is, they dominated the game against Vancouver and still lost. Vancouver really only had one chance, and it wasn’t even a good one, and they capitalized. They literally only got three shots on goal and they put in a miraculous one. That often feels like how things fall.

Prediction: 1-1 Draw

Sporting really need to win. While Minnesota is hot, it’s arguably the more winnable of their remaining road games as the other two are against Houston and Real Salt Lake, who are both quite good at home.

Who do you think will start? Who do you think should start? And what is your prediction for an outcome? Let us know in the comments.