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Sporting KC v Chicago Fire: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

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2nd place in the East collide with 2nd place in the West as this long time rivalry is renewed in the clubs lone 2017 meeting.

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MLS: Sporting KC at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Chicago Fire (#SKCvCHI)

Saturday, July 22, 2017 at 7:00 PM CT

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

57 goals. That’s how many times Dom Dwyer buried the ball in the back of the net since becoming a member of Sporting Kansas City out of college. 50 of those came from 2014-2016. On Saturday, the post-Dwyer era begins in KC.

Looking to replace him, at least in the short term, will be Diego Rubio as well as other players already on the roster like Soony Saad and Latif Blessing. If Sporting want to have someone other than that, like potentially Krisztian Nemeth, then they have to make a move by August 9th when the MLS secondary transfer window closes.

So on Saturday, there won’t be any reinforcements in town. At least not at forward. But the good news for SKC is that they will have their defense back together. At least they could. Graham Zusi and Matt Besler won the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Wednesday and were to arrive back in KC by Thursday afternoon. No word on if they have 90 minutes in them again after playing Wednesday and the previous Saturday, but Besler seems like he always is ready to play again, rarely missing games.

That would bolster a Sporting KC defense that has relied on Saad Abdul-Salaam, Erik Palmer-Brown and Kevin Ellis with the United States National Teamers gone. Likely EPB would still be needed (and possibly the others as well) with Ike Opara still in concussion protocol (though he returned to practice this week).

As for the Fire, they were on quite the impressive streak, going 11 game unbeaten (8-0-3) before somehow being up a man for 77 minutes yet losing to New York City FC. That one loss is unlikely to derail Chicago as they come to Sporting Park Children’s Mercy Park looking to get their first win since 2012 in KC. Sporting will look to continue their seven game unbeaten streak (2-0-5) and get their first three points since June 25th.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Ike Opara (concussion) [He’s been practicing this week, expect and upgrade.]

QUESTIONABLE: None

Chicago

OUT: John Goossens (right ankle surgery), Jorge Bava (left elbow tendinitis), Brandon Vincent (quad strain)

QUESTIONABLE: David Arshakyan (right ankle injury), Jonathan Campbell (right ankle injury)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - Gerso Fernandez (MLS Disciplinary Committee)

Chicago - None

Recent Form

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

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

Leading Scorers

  • Sporting KC: Gerso Fernandes (6), Dom Dwyer (5), Benny Feilhaber(3), Latif Blessing, Ike Opara (2)
  • Chicago: Nemanja Nikolic (16), David Accam (11), Luis Solignac (4)

Starting XI Predictions

Peter Vermes has shown a propensity to play his best 11 week in and week out. With the Gold Cup, injuries and the trade of Dom Dwyer, it becomes less clear who the best 11 players are.

For me, the back line is pretty clear. If Zusi and Besler are healthy enough, I expect to see them in the lineup. Besler feels more likely than Zues, but Abdul-Salaam is available to spell Zusi if he can’t go all 90. There could be some debate as to who should replace Opara, but there is no question in my mind is EPB over Ellis. Ellis has played a lot more next to Besler, but EPB is running out of a chance to get minutes so get him on the field.

The midfield could be up for debate, but it’ll be Benny Feilhaber, Roger Espinoza and Ilie Sanchez. I, along with other informed watchers of SKC, would like to see Jimmy Medranda get a chance over Espinoza but I simply don’t see that happening. It feels more likely Medranda would play over Feilhaber than him getting on over Espinoza (unfortunately).

As for the front three, it could be quite a few possibilities. It seems like Diego Rubio needs a chance to prove he can replace Dom. Blessing has been a pretty consistent player up front (and is likely to be the forward with the most minutes played) but he’s mostly played out wide left. With no Gerso, he can move to the right to make room for Daniel Salloi. Of course there is always a chance Medranda returns to the wing, but I’d prefer to see him off the bench in the midfield than starting at left winger.

The real dark horse up front is Cristian Lobato. He’s been practicing with the team for a couple weeks and I could absolutely see him making his MLS debut. I just can’t see him starting. Also there is talk he is a better fit in the midfield, though he sounds interested in playing right wing. When Rubio is tired, slide Blessing to center forward and bring on Lobato.

Rest of the 18: Dykstra, Mustivar, Medranda, Saad, Lobato, Abdul-Salaam, Ellis

As for picking a winner. It really feels like the perfect storm for Sporting KC to end their 13+ month home unbeaten streak. The Dwyer trade is a huge distraction (even though it really does seem like a move that couldn’t be passed up). Besler and Zusi could be tired (if they even have the legs to get on the pitch). Opara is at best likely to be an emergency center back.

Put all that uncertainty out on the pitch against the Chicago Fire who boast a stout midfield and two of the leagues best goal scorers.

Prediction: 1-0 Chicago Win

Then again, there is something about that atmosphere at CMP. Maybe the Cauldron can will three points out of the boys in blue. Or at least one point.

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.