Sporting Kansas City @ Toronto FC
Friday, March 31st 2017 at 6:30pm
Fox Sports 1 | Fox Deportes | MLS Live
We are four weeks into the season and Sporting KC is sitting in 5th place with 5 points. Those last two playoff positions are something we have come to know quite well the past few seasons. While the table is taking shape and we are getting a sense of each team, I am still not sure what exactly to expect from SKC this year.
I have seen nearly everything I was hoping to see from this team so far. Benny is further up the pitch and getting space in the attacking third. We have speed and creativity on the wings. Medranda has been a workhorse and passing the ball wonderfully as well. I feel all warm and cozy every single time Sanchez touches the ball. There are so many positives when comparing to last season.
But the big issue still remains - the finishing product. Sporting has only scored one goal themselves (shout out to David Bingham for the gift wrap & bow on the second goal) in three matches. But I am not hitting the panic button yet. While we struggled to even see where the goals would come from last season, they have all the tools now.
This week brings another very tough test in Toronto FC. They were able to keep their solid core of players that led them to an MLS Cup appearance last year, and have added their missing piece in Victor Vazquez.
Toronto has also yet to be defeated this season as they stand at 5 points in 5th place in the Eastern Conference. But they have earned each of those results on the road and Sporting KC get the pleasure of facing them in their home opener. This is sure to be an interesting match as both teams will have to shuffle lineups around due to injuries and national team duty.
The head referee for the match will be Alan Kelly. The guy who gave Dom a yellow for the selfie celebration.
back to Alan Kelly as #SportingKC ref. I didn't realize how poor KC did w/ him in the middle, 1-6-2 7 GF, 16GA, 30 y, 2 r, 16/2 for KC,— Mike (@downthebyline) March 28, 2017
Benny Feilhaber looks to be out this week with a leg strain. Vermes told Thad this morning he would probably not be traveling. Other than Diego Rubio who is still working back from knee surgery, the injury report is quiet.
Unfortunately for SKC, it looks like Sebastian Giovinco is healed after missing Toronto’s last match. They are pretty clean on the injury report.
For the first time this year Vermes has to do some shuffling. In addition to Benny’s injury, Graham Zusi & Roger Espinoza both put in full shifts on Tuesday for their respective national teams.
It will be tough for Vermes to break up the back four that has only conceded once so far, but I expect to see Zusi on the bench. PV is high on Saad Abdul-Salaam and would probably love to get him minutes. And we all know very well that Zusi takes on some wear and tear from too much soccer.
Replacing Benny is the real trick. He is our #10 and our ONLY #10. There is nobody on the roster who can slide right in without changing the game plan. But Jimmy Medranda seems to be the best choice right now. He has been putting in solid shifts on the wing and I am interested to see him in this role. I am leaving Roger Espinoza in the lineup despite playing for Honduras on Tuesday. PV is forced into these other changes and I think he is going to count on Espinoza to grind it out (at least to start).
With Medranda moving into the midfield, I expect to see Soony Saad get the nod up top. Saad would probably prefer to be an outright striker, but his tricks and rapport with Dwyer can work on the wing. It is hard to tell who will be on each wing as Gerso has started on both sides this year.
Even dealing with some missing players, I think Vermes is going to be able to throw out a pretty solid lineup.
I was hoping we might be able to dodge Giovinco, but the Atomic Ant is ready to go. However TFC was hit with international duty as well. Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Armando Cooper all played in USA vs Panama on Tuesday & may need to be rested.
Bradley might be too important for Greg Vanney to leave out of the lineup, so I am expecting to see him start the match. If Altidore can’t go, then Canadian Tosaint Ricketts will get the start up top.
Toronto FC 2 - 2 Sporting KC
As always, my prediction comes with the asterisk that predictions are stupid. But I like both Gerso and Dwyer to open their 2017 accounts on Friday. Although Gerso has still been figuring out MLS, he has already looked really good. With three games under his belt he should come out with confidence. I make this prediction with the idea that Jozy Altidore is not starting because he has been everything to them so far. In his absence, Sporting KC can steal a point and spoil their home opener.