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

Two games this week with a TON to play for despite nine players missing for international duty.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

Sporting KC @ Vancouver Whitecaps (#VANvSKC)

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018 at 9:00 PM CT

How to Watch: Fox Sports KC | ESPN+

The game at BC Place on Wednesday is very important. Sporting Kansas City’s path to a home playoff game rests of locking down some points in the final three games, as we’ve laid out in detail for you. Sporting KC currently sit third in the standings after sitting idle over the weekend while Los Angeles Football Club picked up the full three points at home versus the Houston Dynamo. That leaves SKC three points out of second place and four points out of first place with a game in hand on the teams ahead of them. But a game in hand is useless if you don’t go win it.

Sporting will be taking on a Whitecaps team that are playing for their playoff lives. They are in eighth place in the MLS Western Conference and they need to basically win out to make the playoffs. They will be ready and looking to avenge the 6-0 shellacking Sporting dealt to them earlier this season in a game that saw Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez sent off with red cards. The game was out of hand before that, but that was the final nail in the coffin.

One thing that is heavily impacting both teams are international call-ups. SKC are without Gutierrez, Nemeth and Busio — though luckily Johnny Russell confirmed he’ll be in Vancouver. The Caps are without teen sensation Alphonso Davies as well as Waston, Reyna, Henry, Teibert and Ghazal.

Recent history is a bit of a dark spot outside that 6-0 beating. Sporting had lost four straight against Vancouver across all competitions, including a 2-0 lost in May 2017, the last time they played a league game against the Whitecaps. However, they are 2-2-1 in their last five visits to BC Place, so there is some hope.

Whitecaps’ Roster Changes

Since this is the return game, we’ve covered the Whitecaps offseason here. Since that meeting VWFC have added two Homegrown signings (Michael Baldisimo & Theo Bair) as well as defender Roberto Dominguez and Marvin Emnes.

On the other hand they lost Justin Fiddes, Bernie Ibini and Marco Bustos and loaned out forward Myer Bevan. The biggest change is that they fired long time head coach Carl Robinson very recently. The rumor was they made that move to pursue former Swope Park Rangers head coach Marc Dos Santos, though they’ve made no hire to date.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery - out for season), Cristian Lobato (knee injury - out for season)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Whitecaps

OUT: Marvin Emnes (adductor strain)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

Whitecaps - None

International Duty

Sporting KC - Gianluca Busio (USMNT U-17), Krisztian Nemeth (Hungary), Felipe Gutierrez (Chile) — Russell should be back.

Whitecaps - Kendall Waston (Costa Rica), Alphonso Davies (Canada), Russell Teibert (Canada), Doneil Henry (Canada), Yordy Reyna (Peru), Aly Ghazal (Egypt)

Statistical Leaders

Sporting KC

Goals: Johnny Russell (9), Diego Rubio (8), Daniel Salloi, Felipe Gutierrez (7), Gerso (5), Ilie Sanchez (4), Ike Opara (3)

Assists: Roger Espinoza, Johnny Russell (9), Daniel Salloi (7), Diego Rubio (6), Gerso (5), Graham Zusi (4), Ilie Sanchez, Yohan Croizet (3)

Whitecaps

Goals: Kei Kamara (14), Cristian Techera (8), Alphonso Davies (6), Yordy Reyna (5)

Assists: Davies, Reyna (11), Felipe Martins (7), Kamara (5), Marcel de Jong (3)

Recent Performances

Sporting KC - W/W/L/D/D (8 points)

Whitecaps - W/L/L/L/W (6 points)

Starting XI Predictions

The only regular starter unlikely to be available is Felipe Gutierrez. It seems very likely that Yohan Croizet would get the start as his replacement since Busio, the other possible replacement, will be with the United States U-17 squad.

The other international absence, Krisztian Nemeth, was very unlikely to be a starter after a rough return to KC that has seen him struggle to recapture his 2015 form.

Johnny Russell will be with the team on Tuesday, but it’s unclear if he’ll be ready to play. One promising sign is he was an unused sub on Sunday when Scotland took on Portugal, so it’s likely he’ll have the legs for it if the massive amount of travel hasn’t taken it out of him. I’d suspect he starts since he had a hat trick against the Caps previously, his gusto led to both red cards and he’s been in relatively good form lately.

The other winger is a toss-up between Salloi and Gerso. I’m leaning towards Salloi with Gerso available as a supersub. Rubio is a no-brainer to start at center forward and I suspect everything else will remain unchanged.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Fontas, Lindsey, Gerso, Shelton, Belmar, Kuzain

The bench will be a bit thin with the international call-ups. It should open room for Khiry Shelton to return to the 18 as well as players like Belmar and Kuzain who have mostly been with the Rangers and will likely be with them again come Saturday’s playoff game.

[The fan vote is in and you guys are in agreement with me outside of one glitch. We removed Russell from the voting because he was on international duty before he announced he was flying straight from his last game to meet his Kansas City teammates in Vancouver and to practice on Tuesday. The backups basically got no votes outside of Jaylin Lindsey and Busio (who was also incorrectly left in the poll... whoops).]

A home playoff game really hangs in the balance. Sporting have to find a way to get it done because they go back on the road in a few days to face FC Dallas before closing out their season at home against LAFC. Because I can’t seem to figure this team out and they are prone to disappointing endings, I’ll predict further disappoint and we’ll hope me picking against SKC works out.

Prediction: 1-1 Draw

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.