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Sporting KC v Vancouver Whitecaps: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

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The battle for first place is on!

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MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Sporting Kansas City at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Vancouver Whitecaps (#SKCvVAN)

Saturday, September 30, 2017 at 8:00 PM CT

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

The race for the MLS Western Conference title is really tight. After the Seattle Sounders defeated the Whitecaps on Wednesday only a single point separates first and fourth place. The Whitecaps are in first with 14 wins and 48 points. Sporting Kansas City are technically in third because wins is the first tiebreaker and they (and Seattle) have 12 wins to the Portland Timbers 13 wins. The second tiebreaker is goal differential with Sporting KC are dominating. The best news for SKC is that they have at least a game in hand on everyone, but with three games in the final eight days, it could be tough to capitalize.

Courtesy of Google.com

All of that makes this home game against Vancouver very critical. With a win SKC could jump into first place (pending the outcome of the Timbers/San Jose Earthquakes game). This also marks one of the last two home games for Sporting, with just five games remaining overall. The road games won’t be easy. Minnesota United is next week, where SKC, with an admittedly backup heavy lineup, lost 2-0 earlier this year. Then they head to face the Houston Dynamo who are fantastic at home before ending the year on the road against Real Salt Lake. Not an easy stretch by any imagination.

What do the numbers say about Saturday’s game? Both teams are sitting on 10 points over their last five games, but prior to Wednesday’s loss Vancouver was the hottest team in the league. Sporting KC won three times last week which were all home games (though the US Open Cup Final was obviously outside league play).

The trends look even better for KC when you compare them to only playing the Whitecaps. They lead the all-time series 6-2-3 and are undefeated at Sporting Park Children’s Mercy Park going 4-0-1. When playing in Kansas City, Sporting have beat Vancouver three times in a row. However, in the sole meeting between the clubs this year, Vancouver won 2-0 at home.

The Whitecaps do play well on the road this year though. They are 5-7-2, which may seem bad, but its the best road record of any Western Conference team. That gets put against a league best 13-0-6 home record from Sporting KC (across all competitions). SKC are the only MLS team to not lose at home this year after Toronto finally dropped a game at home. Sporting KC have a 15+ month home unbeaten streak on the line this weekend.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Cameron Porter (broken fibula and ligament damage in right ankle), Soni Mustivar (hamstring)

QUESTIONABLE: Matt Besler (stitches in head)

Whitecaps

OUT: David Edgar (PCL, MCL tear), Matias Laba (torn ACL), Brett Levis (knee)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Suspensions

Sporting KC - Kevin Ellis (technically Ellis and the team have agreed he’ll step away temporarily)

Whitecaps - Tony Tchani (red card)

Recent Form

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

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

Leading Scorers

  • Sporting KC: Gerso Fernandes (8), Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber, Diego Rubio (5), Latif Blessing, Daniel Salloi (3), Ike Opara (2)
  • Whitecaps: Freddy Montero (13), Cristian Techera (6), Yordy Reyna (5)

Starting XI Predictions

With a whopping six days off of rest, Sporting Kansas City should be returning to the most optimal lineup available. There are some questions though due to injuries.

First, Latif Blessing and Gerso were removed from the injury report, but you have to wonder who is 100%. Blessing seems indestructible at times but with Gerso dislocating his shoulder twice, I’d prefer to see him in more of a super-sub role. He can come on late and use his pace to destroy back lines.

It’s always possible they could both start but I believe Daniel Salloi deserves a start after the tear he’s been on lately. He has scored three times in league play and in the US Open Cup. He’s really finding his form and links up very well with Diego Rubio.

The midfield and back line really have no reason to change. Roger Espinoza has found his form. Ilie is possibly the best player on the field. Benny Feilhaber isn’t having his best season, but he’s still the best option at attacking midfielder.

As for the back, Matt Besler is really the only question. Our own Thad Bell reported Besler is questionable because heading the ball could open up his stitches.

Knowing Besler, I expect him to do everything possible to be on the field. Worst case scenario, you go to Erik Palmer-Brown, which is a pretty fantastic worst case scenario.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Blessing, Iwasa, Abdul-Salaam, Palmer-Brown, Sinovic, Oliveira

[As for the fan vote you all saw it nearly identical to me, just putting in Gerso over Blessing. Everything else was the same.]

This is a very interesting stylistic match-up. Sporting KC are number one in the league in passing accuracy (83.4%) and number two in possession (57.1%). Vancouver are dead last in passing accuracy (74.1%) and dead last in possession (42.0%). It goes to show both play styles can work.

Sporting KC will look to press high and win the ball back if they lose it (like always) and control the game and time of possession. Vancouver will be comfortable sitting back and absorbing pressure and looking to hit on the counter. And with players like Montero, Reyna and Techera, they are all capable of making SKC pay with their speed and creativity. To the point where it has to be considered to start Jimmy Medranda at left back over Sinovic.

All that said, Sporting KC must know they have to win at home. With only two road wins all season, if they want to play a home game (or more) in the playoffs, they’ll need all three points.

Prediction: 2-1 Sporting KC Win

Plus, there is something magical about CMP and the way the team plays at home. They’ll continue their good form and find a way to pull it out.

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.