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

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SKC look for revenge as they return home where they haven’t lost in over a year.

MLS: Sporting KC at Minnesota United FC Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC vs Minnesota United (#SKCvMIN)

Saturday, June 3, 2017 at 4:00 PM CT

ESPN | fuboTV (free trial)

Suddenly Sporting Kansas City aren’t looking so hot. They have lost two in a row (both on the road) and have only won once in their last five games. Despite that they are still second in the MLS Western Conference (behind the Houston Dynamo).

A key reason for the drop off from Sporting KC is likely two fold. First, they are tired. They just completed a brutal stretch of games that saw them play three times in eight days on two separate occasions over a three week period. Included in that stretch was a game in Orlando followed by a game in Vancouver just a week apart. Also, the starters are playing more minutes for SKC than any other team in the league is asking from their primary eleven players.

The second reason is this team is suddenly dealing with injuries. Early in the season the club lost Benny Feilhaber for two games but outside of that they have been very healthy. Now Dom Dwyer has missed two straight games. In those two games Sporting scored zero goals.

Beyond just Dwyer, SKC released word that Kevin Ellis is out “indefinitely.” Normally missing your backup center back isn’t a deal breaker, but Kansas City have the perfect storm of injuries and international call-ups. Matt Besler and Erik Palmer-Brown are both away with the National Team. That leaves Ike Opara as the only healthy and available center back on the roster (what a weird sentence). That necessitated the move to add Swope Park Ranger center back Amer Didic to the senior roster.

All this comes to a head as Minnesota United comes to Sporting Park Children’s Mercy Park for the first time since joining MLS. They come to town just three weeks after handing KC a 2-0 loss in Minnesota.

The numbers beyond that only favor Kansas City. Sporting KC are 5-0-1 at home while scoring 11 more goals than their opponents. Minnesota have also failed to notch a single victory on the road (0-4-2).

This could be a perfect storm for Minnesota to sneak a road win. Not only are SKC likely without Dwyer, Besler and Ellis but Graham Zusi is also on international duty and Roger Espinoza is suspended (thankfully he’ll serve it before his international duty kicks in). Another contributor, Tyler Pasher, received his second call up for Canada, though it’s unclear when his international duty starts.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Diego Rubio (torn ACL), Kevin Ellis (quadriceps muscle strain)

QUESTIONABLE: Dom Dwyer (knee injury)

Minnesota

OUT: Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury), Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles injury), Abu Danladi (right adductor injury), Vadim Demidov (left knee injury),

QUESTIONABLE: Sam Cronin (neck injury), Rasmus Schuller (left thigh injury)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - Roger Espinoza (red card), [Seth Sinovic will be suspended the next yellow card]

Minnesota - Sam Cronin (Disciplinary Committee decision)

International Duty

Sporting KC - Erik Palmer-Brown (USA U-20 World Cup), Matt Besler, (United States) Graham Zusi (United States), Tyler Pasher (Canada)

Minnesota - Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica), Johan Venegas (Costa Rica)

Recent Form

Sporting KC - Last Five: L/D/W/L/L (4 Points)

Minnesota - Last Five: L/W/L/L/W (6 Points)

Leading Scorers

  • Sporting KC: Dom Dwyer, Gerso Fernandes (5), Latif Blessing, Benny Feilhaber (2)
  • Minnesota: Christian Ramirez (8), Kevin Molino (5), Johan Venegas (2)

Starting XI Predictions

Sporting Kansas City

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Dwyer, Salloi, Porter, Juliao, Saad, Pasher

Picking a starting lineup, let alone a full 18, is difficult with all the injuries, suspensions and players on international duty. Word from Peter Vermes is that Dom Dwyer will be a last minute decision. Obviously his availability impacts everything in the lineup. While I’d like to see someone other than Jimmy Medranda start on the wing (Daniel Salloi anyone?), Vermes hates change.

Beyond the front line, things will have to change. Ellis is out and Didic is the only other CB available, so he’ll need to step in. Zusi is out and Juliao could step in, but he had a disastrous start against Minnesota United (his only start this year) so it should be Saad Abdul-Salaam starting.

[Update: Matt Besler has been recalled to SKC and will be available for the game against Minnesota United at the request of Peter Vermes. Obviously if he’s available, it seems likely he and Opara start together with Didic moving to the bench as an option in case of injury.]

As for Espinoza’s replacement, Soni Mustivar is the only other player on the roster that is even a midfielder. While Mustivar has 10 appearances this season he only has one start and that was at attacking midfielder (a position he can’t really play) and only 163 minutes. He hasn’t had hardly any minutes playing in the number eight role that Espinoza plays. He has always been a decent holding midfielder but that job now belongs to Ilie Sanchez until he isn’t with the club. I think Mustivar’s hustle and ability to cover ground actually translates well to the #8 role and honestly I don’t think it’ll be a downgrade as Espinoza has not been on his game this year.

Despite the massive shuffling that SKC are dealing with Minnesota have problems of their own. Sam Cronin is suspended and he is the glue holding the midfield together. Francisco Calvo and Johan Venegas are also gone. Last, Abu Danladi (the first pick in the 2017 SuperDraft) is out with an injury after he scored his first ever MLS goal against SKC the last time these clubs met.

Predicting what will happen with such shuffling is pretty tough. Sporting KC have now gone a year without losing at home and Minnesota hasn’t won on the road. The game will probably be a draw but something about the Cauldron chanting for 90 minutes make me believe Sporting will pull it out.

Prediction: 2-1 Sporting KC

Sporting need this to get back on track. Regardless of this outcome, these teams play yet again on June 14th in the US Open Cup. It will be their third straight year meeting in the tourney, of which SKC are undefeated.

Who do you think will start? Who do you think should start? And what is your prediction for an outcome.