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Sporting KC v Real Salt Lake: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

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A heated rivalry renews as Sporting KC return home after a very tough road stretch.

MLS: Sporting KC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Real Salt Lake

Saturday, April 29th, 2017 at 7:30 PM CT

Fox Sports KC+ | MLS Live | fuboTV

Match-ups are all about timing. Earlier this year, when Minnesota United were doing terrible, I was pining for a chance to play them before they got things figured out. Real Salt Lake are no different. They started the season 0-3-2 before head coach Jeff Cassar was abruptly dismissed (technically they were between coaches for one loss and one draw). Since Mike Petke, formerly of the New York Red Bulls and Real Monarchs (USL), took over the reigns, RSL has looked a lot better, going 2-1.

That’s why the timing seems so bad for Sporting Kansas City. They have absolutely struggled against RSL during the regular season since defeating them in the 2013 MLS Cup. SKC are 0-4-3 in their last seven regular season meetings with the only bright spot being their 2015 US Open Cup semi-final victory over RSL on the way to eventually winning that trophy. The numbers only get worse at home as SKC lost both match-ups at Sporting Park Children’s Mercy Park in 2016.

If there is one bright spot for SKC as Salt Lake roll into town it’s that they are absolutely decimated with injury right now (see full list below). They have an astounding 10 players on their injury report including several likely starters. Sporting on the other hand are super healthy, not having a single player listed on their report that was injured this season (Rubio got hurt last season).

Another bright statistic, if you only look at 2017, is Sporting KC are still undefeated at home (2-0-1) and Real Salt Lake have just a single road victory (1-2-1), and that was against a struggling Colorado Rapids team. Sporting have also bagged five of their six goals at home while RSL have allowed seven road goals (compared to just three total all season for SKC). In fact Sporting hadn’t even allowed a goal from the run of play until last week’s game winner against FC Dallas.

Salt Lake’s Offseason

If you haven’t bothered to watch RSL this season (and who could blame you) it’s easy to miss their changes. The biggest comes in the form of Javier Morales (now with Dallas) being replaced by Albert Rusnak. Rusnak is a Designated Player and already has three assists and two goals so far this season -- production Sporting KC would love to have out of their new DP, though to be fair Rusnak is playing in the #10 role.

Another notable change is the return of US Youth International Brooks Lennon from Liverpool on loan. Lennon already has a goal and looks to be a likely starter with so many players (Plata, Allen) potentially out. Lennon has really impressed alongside Sporting KC Homegrown player Erik Palmer-Brown during their time together with the US U-20 National Team.

On the players lost from RSL lost Jamison Olave (which is probably for the best) and their long-term plan to replace Nick Rimando in former backup goalkeeper Jeff Antinella. Antinella was taken in the MLS Expansion Draft by Minnesota but they dealt him to the Portland Timbers in exchange for a second round pick and the Discovery rights to Miguel Ibarra.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Diego Rubio (torn ACL)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Real Salt Lake

OUT: Chad Barrett (knee surgery), David Horst (knee surgery)

QUESTIONABLE: Jordan Allen (right quad strain), Justen Glad (knee injury), Tony Beltran (back injury), Aaron Maund (left hamstring strain), Sunny (hamstring injury), Joao Plata (quad injury), Nick Rimando (leg injury), Chris Wingert (head injury) — WOW!

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None (Seth Sinovic suspended next yellow card)

Real Salt Lake - None

Recent Form

Sporting KC - Last Five: W/D/W/W/L (10 Points)

Real Salt Lake - Last Five: D/L/W/W/L (7 Points)

Leading Scorers

  • Sporting KC: Dom Dwyer (2), three others with one
  • Real Salt Lake: Yura Movsisyan (4), Albert Rusnak, Luke Mulholland (2)

Starting XI Predictions

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

While the lineup has been steady from week to week, as Peter Vermes loves to do, things could start getting crazy. SKC are about to play six games over a stretch of 21 days. For comparison’s sake they’ve only played seven all season. A season that started back in early March.

That said, the lineup probably doesn’t change against RSL. It’s a team SKC really need to beat not just because we all hate RSL but because they are actually sneaking up on SKC in the Western Conference Standings. Sporting currently sit in fourth on 12 points behind Portland, Dallas and *gasp* the Houston Dynamo. Salt Lake have played one more game and only have eight points, but it’s really early in the season.

As for predicting an outcome. There is just something about RSL that makes me think they are going to come into Kansas City and cause trouble. Their long streak without a loss obviously shows a trend. But their banged up lineup seems to make them more beatable. I feel like we all felt that way last year when they were dealing with a bunch of injuries and SKC still managed to go winless against them over three game.

Prediction: 1-1 Draw

I’ve actually gotten a few of these right this year. Don’t let that scare you though, I’m sure this won’t play out this way. We’ll all have to watch to find out.