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

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Sunday marks the first ever meeting between SKC and Atlanta United.

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MLS: LA Galaxy at Sporting KC John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Atlanta United (#SKCvATL)

Sunday, August 6, 2017 at 7:00 PM CT

FS1 | fuboTV (free trial) | TSN2 (Canada)

Dom who? The Sporting Kansas City universe basically panicked about “who would score the goals” with Dom Dwyer’s trade to Orlando City before last weeks game. The team responded with a resounding three goal performance against one of the league’s best teams in the Chicago Fire.

Despite that clinic of goal scoring, Sporting KC are still ranked 18th in the league in goals per game (1.27). The stands in stark contrast to this Sunday’s opponent Atlanta United, who lead the league in goals scored per game (1.95) with nearly two goals every match. That will mean the league’s best offense will be meeting the leagues best defense (0.77 goals allowed per game).

With all the talk of goals and defense Sporting will have something to play for, historically speaking. The team is currently on a 14+ month home unbeaten streak dating all the way back to June of 2016. That is the sixth longest such streak in all of MLS history. Additionally, KC has an eight game unbeaten streak (3-0-5) in league play which has seen them slide in and out of first place in the West.

Speaking of conference rankings, Atlanta are having one of the best expansion seasons in MLS history. They are sitting on 34 points through 21 games (SKC have 36 through 22) which is good for only fifth in the suddenly much tougher Eastern Conference. By comparison they would be second in the West behind only SKC with a game in hand.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Cameron Porter (broken fibula and ligament damage in right ankle)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Atlanta

OUT: Kenwyne Jones (knee inflammation), Alec Kann (left quad injury), Mark Bloom (lower back injury), Josef Martinez (foot injury)

QUESTIONABLE: Greg Garza (separated right shoulder)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

Atlanta - None

Recent Form

Sporting KC - Last Five: W/D/D/D/W (9 Points)

Atlanta - Last Five: W/W/W/W/D (13 Points)

Leading Scorers

  • Sporting KC: Gerso Fernandes (6), Dom Dwyer (5), Benny Feilhaber (4), Latif Blessing (3), Daniel Salloi, Ike Opara (2)
  • Atlanta: Hector Villaba (10), Josef Martinez (9), Miguel Almiron (8), Julian Gressel (3)

Starting XI Predictions

Sporting KC gets Gerso back after missing him in the first game of the post-Dwyer era. Not that the team actually “missed” him. The three goal output was fantastic, but is probably not the norm going forward. With Gerso back, that pushes either Blessing or Salloi to the bench. I’d like Blessing to be a super-sub, but I imagine Salloi will actually be the one who sits down.

It feels like the midfield and the back line will remain unchanged. There are arguments to be made that subs should be used with a semi-final US Open Cup match coming next week, but Peter Vermes has shown a propensity to put his best 11 on the field no matter how much rest they may need. Graham Zusi has played a lot of soccer lately with the Gold Cup, Chicago game and this past weeks all-star game all sandwiched together, but he’ll probably still play. Especially with Ike Opara still getting back to his old self after the concussion he suffered against Dallas.

Jimmy Medranda is another player a lot of us would like to see in the midfield over Roger Espinoza, but he will likely be needed for 90 minutes against San Jose with Seth Sinovic being forced to sit at left back after that 15th minute red card in the last US Open Cup game.

For what it’s worth, you guys voted for your starters and they match the below with the exception of Salloi starting over Blessing (that’s how I voted too, even though I just have a feeling Vermes will go the way I have it below). Salloi beat Blessing by a lot too (nearly 30% more votes) and it’s worth noting that the Cameron’s (Iwasa and Porter) got more votes than Soony Saad, despite Porter being out for the season and Saad seeming to be otherwise healthy.

Rest of the 18: Dykstra, Mustivar, Medranda, Salloi, Lobato, Abdul-Salaam, Palmer-Brown

As for figuring out if defense or offense is better, Atlanta is going to make quite the case that they should win this thing. They have four road victories this season and have put in an astounding 19 goals away from home (SKC only have 22 at home!).

They are also a team built to beat everyone off the counter. Their speed is the exact kind of weapon that could hurt a possession oriented team like KC. It almost seems inevitable that the fullbacks will be too far up the field and Almiron or Villaba will get a quick counter and snag a goal or two.

The same should be true the other way too. Atlanta have made a lot of progress to fix their leaky defense and the addition of Brad Guzan has to be part of that equation (no offense Alec Kann). In their last five they’ve only give up two goals once and they still won that game. Conversely, they gave up multiple goals eight times in their first 16 games. For some measure of comparison, SKC only gave up multiple goals at home once and that was last week (and that included a fluke Matt Besler own goal -- the first of his career).

Prediction: 1-1 Draw

As always, picking winners and losers in MLS is really, really hard. Atlanta is almost guaranteed to score. Only twice this season have they failed to score. Sporting KC haven’t scored in eight of their games for comparison. Lately, they are finding a goal (or more) from somewhere. Diego Rubio so far looks like a good fit up top for SKC so his combination play with Feilhaber, Salloi, Blessing and Gerso should lead to something, but it just feels like it won’t be enough.

But to show how wrong I often am, I predicted a 1-0 loss to Chicago and we saw five goals scored in that game. This feels like the chance for a let down after such a hot start in the post-Dwyer era and an Open Cup game looming next week to distract the club. I’ll probably be wrong again.

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.