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Sporting KC v D.C. United: Preview, Predictions, Injuries and Starting XI

Sporting Kansas City open their 2017 campaign on the road in their only meeting with Eastern Conference foe, D.C. United.

MLS: D.C. United at Sporting KC Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC @ D.C. United

Saturday, March 4, 2017 at 6:00 PM CT

Fox Sports KC | MLS Live

Can you believe it? It’s time for the beginning of a new Major League Soccer season already. Sporting Kansas City are coming off their third straight season in which they were eliminated in the opening round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Three years ago it was a late game heart-breaker against the New York Red Bulls. After that the Double-Post Bar was born after Saad Abdul-Salaam managed to hit both posts during a penalty kick shootout against the Portland Timbers.

Possible the most painful of the bunch was the Seattle Sounders being offside on their game winning goal last year. As we all know, the Sounders and the Timbers went on to win the whole dang thing. The goal for this season has to be to get a first round bye in the playoffs, or at least get a home game.

The journey will begin on the road as Sporting KC travel to RFK Stadium to take on D.C. United. DC lead the all-time series with one more victory over SKC than the other way around (21 to 20). At home, United are even stronger holding a 13-6-7 record while having put in nine more goals than Sporting.

It gets worse. Sporting KC were abysmal on the road in 2016. They posted a 3-9-5 record and gave up 10 more goals than they scored (12 GF, 22 GA) not including their playoff loss to Seattle.

One positive for Sporting is their record in opening games. They lead MLS all-time with 13 wins on opening day (13-5-3).

D.C. United’s Offseason

Sporting KC’s changes are well documented around these parts but what about D.C. United? The teams only real notable offseason acquisitions were MLS veteran Sebastien Le Toux and Costa Rican forward Jose Guillermo Ortiz. The other signing of any importance is is Homegrown signing Ian Harkes, son of John Harkes. He may not make an immediate impact but long-term he looks like a star.

The biggest move the club actually made was keeping loanee Luciano Acosta. Acosta was on loan from Argentina’s Boca Juniors and via a record transfer fee for the club, he’s now a permanent member at United. He’s small, but very quick and creative on the ball. He will make D.C. dangerous going forward, assuming he plays. He picked up an injury in their final preseason game and is the only player who could miss the game.

Injuries

Sporting KC

- Dom Dwyer (bone bruise in right foot)

D.C. United

- Luciano Acosta (undisclosed injury)

Starting XI Predictions

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Abdul-Salaam, Mustivar, Medranda, Ellis, Salloi, Saad

In case you’ve missed them, we have season preview pieces for the goalkeepers, defense, midfield and forwards. Since the entire staff voted, I’ll stick with those choices for the Starting XI, though there are some questions.

Will Graham Zusi actually play right back or will he return to the wing? I could totally see Peter Vermes moving him back up top and Latif Blessing to the bench. That would allow two inverted wingers to cut in on their dominant foot to get shots off. That said, I’ve been convinced the Zusi to RB movement is a good thing in the long run.

MLS: Sporting KC at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Another question is will Ilie Sanchez actually start over Soni Mustivar? Mustivar has been the guy at defensive midfielder over the last two seasons and he’s done well. But when Vermes called Sanchez “Uri 2.0” it’s hard not to get overly excited that he is going to take that job. I feel strongly he will take the job, though it may not be in week one.

[Updated 3/3/17: As for the fan voting, it 100% matches the above lineup. The only contenders to start that didn’t make it were Saad Abdul-Salaam over Zusi at RB, Soni Mustivar over Ilie Sanchez at CDM and Zusi over Blessing on the wing. That said, the voting wasn’t close. It should be noted I voted for SAS and Zusi in those roles just because I’m struggling to trust preseason lineups. Interestingly Christian Volesky got a single vote but he was released, so I’m guessing that won’t happen. Maybe a family member?]

The only other real question is if Dom Dwyer is healthy enough to play. He picked up a bone bruise in his right foot. He is left footed but the team was reportedly thrilled it wasn’t a break. It wouldn’t stun me to see Dwyer not play (or at least not start) to take things easy. Last year Benny Feilhaber missed time early while recovering from an injury and Vermes has shown caution in these situations in the past. If Soony Saad is starting at center forward (as he is the man who mostly spelled Dwyer in the preseason) then the offense suddenly gets much worse.

One last note about trying to predict the 18. Never has it been so tough. Last season there were times when I wasn’t sure if there were 18 healthy bodies on the squad. This season I’ve already had to leave out Tyler Pasher, who I think is a great option off the bench, simply because there is so much quality depth. That’s a good problem to have.

As for what happens in the game. There are still lots of question marks about this club. In preseason the goal scoring, like in years past, was inconsistent. Many of the goals came when the reserves were on the field (several were even scored by the Swope Park Rangers’ players who were helping out). With Dom possibly missing the opener, potentially an entirely new front three and Sporting’s abysmal road form from last season, a win may be a lot to ask for.

Prediction: 1-0 D.C. United Win

I’d settle for a draw but United ended the year hot (if you ignore the playoffs). Acosta works his magic and Patrick Mullins gets one of those striker goals he’s so good at. There is always the home opener... but it is against FC Dallas, possibly the best team in the league. Who does Sporting play in Week Three?