Sporting KC v Philadelphia Union (#SKCvPHI)
Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 7:30 PM CT
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Sporting Kansas City are preparing to play their second straight home game after earning a draw against the Portland Timbers last Saturday. Against Portland Sporting were without three starters who were off preparing for the Gold Cup with the United States. There was concern they’d also be without Benny Feilhaber, but he returned from what looked to be a bad ankle injury in only a weeks time.
It wasn’t all good news though as Sporting KC are now set to be without Gerso Fernandes due a dislocated shoulder he picked up at the hands of the Timbers. Since Dom Dwyer is on international duty and Gerso is out injured, that leaves the top scorer on the team as their center back Ike Opara (and technically Feilhaber and Latif Blessing as well). The leading scorer(s) have just two regular season goals.
The Philadelphia Union on the other hand have all their top scorers. Former SKC man C.J. Sapong has tied his career high of nine goals already this year, with plenty of time to break the record. He hit that mark two years ago with Philly and back in 2012 with Sporting. They’ve also had a sudden break out from Picault who has scored four goals. Not to mention Roland Alberg already has three goals and he’s just now coming into fitness (after apparently reporting to preseason out of shape). He had nine goals of his own last year in just over 1100 minutes.
It’s not all on Opara, Benny and Latif to score the goals though. Over the last few weeks the team has gotten goals out of random players. Daniel Salloi and Roger Espinoza got their first goals of the season (and Salloi’s first MLS goal ever).
The one thing that may help Sporting KC score goals is that Andre Blake will be away on international duty. That will leave John McCarthy (no, not the MMA referee) to mind the net. He has yet to make an appearance this season and had just one (a loss) in 2016. The last time he really got onto the field was 2015 when he went 3-5-3 before permanently losing his starting role.
QUESTIONABLE: Benny Feilhaber (ankle sprain), Gerso Fernandes (dislocated shoulder) [Gerso updated on Wed 7/5/17 to questionable.]
OUT: Maurice Edu (left ankle/left tibia surgery recovery), Fabian Herbers (right adductor partial avulsion), Warren Creavalle (right hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: Brian Carroll (lumbar disc herniation), Richie Marquez (knee tendinitis)
Sporting KC - Roger Espinoza (yellow card accumulation)
Union - None [Alejandro Bedoya suspended next yellow card]
Sporting KC - Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler (United States)
Union - Alejandro Bedoya (United States), Andre Blake (Jamaica)
Sporting KC - Last Five: W/D/D/W/D (9 Points)
Union - Last Five: L/L/L/W/W (6 Points)
- Sporting KC: Gerso Fernandes (6), Dom Dwyer (5), Latif Blessing, Ike Opara, Benny Feilhaber (2)
- Union: C.J. Sapong (9), Fabrice-Jean Picault (4), Roland Alberg (3)
Starting XI Predictions
Both of these teams are coming off a long stretch of games. It will be both clubs fourth game in 12 days. The Union have also played six in just 22 days. That’s a lot of soccer for two clubs dealing with lots of absences. I said the other day that this is the game to rest players if there ever was one. Kansas City are playing a vital game against FC Dallas next Tuesday that will determine who goes to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semi-finals. Sporting appear all in on winning and they’ll need everything they’ve got to overcome Dallas.
That said, I just can’t see Peter Vermes resting his players despite all the games they’ve played. They have a nice break coming up after the Dallas game during the Gold Cup, so they’ll get their rest then. One move that is forcing Vermes hand is the yellow card accumulation suspension of Roger Espinoza. It’ll be his second suspension of the year (the earlier was his record breaking red card suspension). With that in mind, here is who should start.
Rest of the 18: Dykstra, Mustivar, Ellis, Saad, Storm, Porter, Pasher
Let’s start with what is certain. Tim Melia, Ilie Sanchez and Seth Sinovic have played all but one minute this season (when Sinovic left in the 89th minute against Orlando City with an injury). They should all play.
Next up would be Feilhaber, Opara and Saad Abdul-Salaam. Unless Vermes is planning an Amer Didic loan recall and a super inexperienced back line, those three have to start (assuming Benny is healthy). As for the rest, it’s a crap shoot.
I’m going to stick to my guns that Erik Palmer-Brown should be starting over Kevin Ellis. He’s out of contract at the end of the season and there is absolutely zero hope that he stays if he can’t get on the pitch. Vermes seems to trust Ellis but I’d argue he has some culpability on the Diego Valeri goal last week (though that was a beautiful strike). If he steps to the ball it at least pressures the shot. Plus his height is a liability in the back. Regardless, Vermes will probably play Ellis.
The front three could be really anyone. I believe Diego Rubio earned the start with the minutes he’s put in with the Swope Park Rangers and how he brought the team to life when he came on against Portland. On the wings Blessing has looked good with all his hustle and Daniel Salloi may have scored the goal of the year as a substitute last game. I’d start these two with Soony Saad, Cameron Porter or even Tyler Pasher available as late game depth.
That just leaves Espinoza’s replacement. It could be Soni Mustivar, but I feel like he’s still in trouble for that back pass against Montreal which caused the team two points. I’ve really liked Jimmy Medranda playing the #8 role for Roger and I hope that’s what happens against Philly.
As for how the whole thing plays out, lineups will make all the difference. If Philly goes with a bunch of backups, Sporting can and should win. I expect them to play as many starters as possible though because this is their last game before the Gold Cup since they were eliminated by the New York Red Bulls from the Open Cup.
With Philly’s ability to score (and not defend), there should be goals scored. Sporting have shown they are defensively stout (best goalkeeper in the league in 2017) but offensively weak.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Sporting can’t end their 13-month home unbeaten streak against the Union, can they? Although that would be sweet revenge for that Open Cup road game SKC took from them.