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Sporting KC at NYCFC: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

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Sporting start a two game road trip with a journey to the Big Apple to face a Villa-less NYCFC squad.

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MLS: New York City FC at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC @ New York City FC (#NYCvSKC)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 at 6:30 PM CT

Fox Sporting KC | fuboTV (free trial) | MLS Live

Wednesday will mark the third all-time meeting between Sporting Kansas City and NYCFC. Sporting are undefeated against New York with a single win home and away. 2017 has been a good year for both clubs. Sporting KC currently sit in third place (40 points) in the Western Conference with games in hand on both teams ahead of them (Seattle and Portland). NYC are second in the East (47 points) and on an absolute tear this year. If not for Toronto FC’s record setting season they’d be in first.

The East has been the better conference in 2017 as well, so it really says something that with just a single extra game played over Sporting, New York City are seven points ahead of them in the Supporter’s Shield race. FiveThirtyEight.com has NYC at a >99% chance of making the playoffs and 11% chance of winning MLS Cup. For their part, Sporting have “slipped” to a 96% playoff chance (while they’ve sat idle) and are holding strong at a 10% chance to win MLS Cup (third best).

Both clubs are impacted by International Duty coming into this game though but Sporting look better equipped to handle it. Their biggest absences will be Besler and Zusi, who both have capable backups. New York will be without David Villa who got his first call-up in three years for the Spanish National Team. He also promptly picked up an injury with them, so he may be out an extended period of time. That really hurts as Villa has 19 goals already, which is good for the league lead. He’s three goals ahead of Portland Timber’s midfielder Diego Valeri and Chicago Fire striker Nemanja Nikolic.

With Villa New York have 29 goals. He also has nine assists, so without those the team has only scored 20 times that Villa wasn’t involved. And lets be honest, he probably made a run that pulled away a defender on at least a few of the others. Sporting KC aren’t exactly lighting it up offensively, as they’ve scored only 31 times total. So a David Villa-less NYC still puts it in the back of the net nearly as much as SKC.

Where Sporting shine as always is in their defense. While they will be without Besler and Zusi, Erik Palmer-Brown and Saad Abdul-Salaam are pretty good (though SAS is having an off year). Sporting have allowed only 19 goals while New York City have leaked in 35 goals. 16 of those have come at home. That means they are likely to give up at least one goal. The question is will they find the back of the net without Villa.

Injuries

Sporting KC

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

QUESTIONABLE: None

NYCFC

OUT: Ronald Matarrita (foot surgery), Miguel Camargo (non-displaced hip fracture), Maxime Chanot (hernia surgery), Ethan White (gastrocnemius strain), Mikey Lopez (midfoot sprain)

QUESTIONABLE: None

International Duty

Sporting KC - Matt Besler, Graham Zusi (United States), James Musa (New Zealand), Amer Didic (Canada), Soony Saad (Lebanon)

NYCFC - David Villa (Spain), Alex Ring (Finland), Yangel Herrera (Venezuela), Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

NYCFC - Rodney Wallace (yellow card accumulation)

Recent Form

Sporting KC - Last Five: D/W/D/L/W (8 Points)

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

Leading Scorers

  • Sporting KC: Gerso Fernandes (7), Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber (5), Latif Blessing (3), Daniel Salloi, Ike Opara, Diego Rubio (2)
  • NYCFC: David Villa (19), Jack Harrison (8), Maxi Moralez (4), Rodney Wallace (4)

Starting XI Predictions

With the cancelled road game against Houston, Sporting haven’t taken the field since August 19th. That’ll be 17 days without a game. That should mean fresh legs for the team but Sam McDowell reported Roger Espinoza and Diego Rubio sat out an intra-squad scrimmage with minor injuries. Peter Vermes apparently said they’ll be “fine” for the New York game, so I’ll take him at his word.

As stated above, the obvious replacements for Besler/Zusi are EPB/SAS and I expect them to start.

Beyond that, the only other “starter” in question is Gerso. Before the FC Dallas game, where he came off the bench in the 68th minute, he had looked very tired and out of form. In league play he didn’t score a goal from June 10th until August 19th. That’s 70 days without a goal. That’s just no OK for your leading goal scorer.

Even with another two plus weeks of rest, Gerso is still going on 14-15 straight months of soccer after playing in Portugal and then immediately transitioning to the MLS season. For that reason I’d like to see him in the super-sub role and Daniel Salloi starting. I’m not sure Vermes will stick with that as a lot of it probably has to do with how he’s looked in practice, but it feels like the right thing to do. His speed late in a game can open things up.

Some may question if Jimmy Medranda will continue to start at left back but I believe that was a one off. The last time Dallas and SKC met in the US Open, Seth Sinovic got burned so bad he picked up a red card. Medranda’s speed allowed him to play the LB role and not get beat. Other than that, Sinovic has done nothing to lose his job. Plus, Medranda is the best sub off the bench for the two more forward midfield roles.

Rest of the 18: Dykstra, Mustivar, Gerso, Lobato, Medranda, Storm, Ellis

With the lineup established, I recommend reading out sister site, Hudson River Blues, for their take on what NYC needs to do to beat Sporting. They point out some real defensive deficiencies in their midfield with Andrea Pirlo likely to start again.

[In the limited time you’ve had to vote, your lineup matches mine with the exception of Gerso starting over Salloi. You are all probably right, but I’m going with my gut.]

As for who wins this thing, the trends are pretty torn. While SKC are really good against NYC in their limited sample, New York City are fantastic at home (just one loss this year — and that was way back in April). Also, Sporting are pretty bad on the road (2-5-5) with their last road win coming against the abysmal LA Galaxy (hey, I was at that game).

But something tells me Sporting are going to win. Two more weeks with Rubio as the focal point of practice (though he did miss at least one scrimmage) will only improve his chemistry with the attacking players around him. Plus Villa being out really stifles NYC who rely on him to both score and create. They have good young attacking options in Jonathan Lewis and Jack Harrison but will it be enough?

Prediction: 1-0 Sporting KC Win

I’d still accept a draw but this team really needs to start picking up wins if they want to win the West (or at least lock down a bye).

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.