Sporting KC @ FC Dallas (#DALvSKC)
Sunday, October 21st, 2018 at 4:00 PM CT
How to Watch: Fox Sports KC | ESPN+
Here we are in the penultimate game of the 2018 MLS regular season. First place in the Western Conference (FC Dallas, 16-7-9, 57 points) taking on second place in the Western Conference (Sporting KC, 16-8-8, 56 points). The clubs are also third and fourth respectively in the Supporters Shield race that they can no longer win.
It’s two teams that are both coming in with uneven form. They have both captured eight of a possible 15 points in their last five games. However, Sporting Kansas City are coming off an amazing comeback on Wednesday night where they were down a goal to the Vancouver Whitecaps but struck back four times to surge back into second place. Dallas on the other hand suffered their first loss in a month and a half when Wayne Rooney and D.C. United shut them out 1-0.
Sunday’s game is a bit of a mini Decision Day with all the Western Conference games happening simultaneously and the same is true in the Eastern Conference (just two hours earlier). Kansas City will be coming into the weekend looking for a bit of revenge. Back on July 28th SKC lost at home to FC Dallas by the score of 3-2. That game saw Michael Barrios, who hadn’t scored in what felt like an eternity, score three times as he torched the KC backline and specifically Ike Opara. To ensure that doesn’t happen again, Graham Zusi might have to sit a little deeper to help out Ike.
Honestly though, winning at Dallas is freaking tough. They’ve only lost at home once all year. Bizarrely that was to the lowly San Jose Earthquakes. But they haven’t lost to Sporting KC in Texas since June 2011, going 5-0-3 in the nine games since that date. That feels bleak.
Dallas’ Roster Changes
Not much has changed since the last time these two clubs met. They haven’t lost any players (the Kellyn Acosta trade was just days before the last meeting) and they’ve added defender Moises Hernandez who has yet to make an appearance and midfielder Abel Aguilar who 131 minutes through four appearances and one start. It hardly seems worth mentioning.
QUESTIONABLE: Yohan Croizet (quad injury)
OUT: Kris Reaves (left foot stress fracture), Cristian Colman (torn ACL)
Sporting KC - None
Dallas - None (Carlos Gruezo suspended next yellow card)
Goals: Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi (9), Diego Rubio (8), Felipe Gutierrez (7), Gerso (5), Ilie Sanchez (4), Ike Opara, Yohan Croizet (3)
Assists: Johnny Russell (10, Roger Espinoza (9), Daniel Salloi (7), Diego Rubio, Graham Zusi (6), Gerso (5), Ilie Sanchez, Khiry Shelton (4), Yohan Croizet, Matt Besler (3)
Goals: Roland Lamah (8), Maxi Urruti (7), Michael Barrios, Santiago Mosquera (6), Reto Ziegler (4)
Assists: Urruti (11),
Mauro Diaz (8), Barrios (6), Mosquera, Lamah (5), Ryan Hollingshead, Reggie Cannon (3)
Sporting KC - W/L/D/D/W (8 points)
Dallas - D/W/D/W/L (8 points)
Starting XI Predictions
Suddenly it’s unclear who should start. Or has it been unclear all season? It’s definitely clear in the midfield, defense and at goalkeeper. The only position in flux was left back and Seth Sinovic has shown why he’s an indespecible member of this roster. He’s never really great, but he’s incredibly consistent. Barring injury, I expect the back eight are set the rest of the way.
It’s up front where there are questions. Let’s start at striker. Not counting Daniel Salloi, who has mostly stayed a winger, there are three possible center forwards: Diego Rubio, Krisztian Nemeth and Khiry Shelton. Rubio has nine starts, Nemeth four and Shelton 13. The team has played 32 games and that only adds up to 26 (Salloi has the others, but it’s been quite a while). It seemed by about midseason Diego Rubio had made the position his. He still has the best goals per 90 in the league (including Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez). But then he went on international duty, picked up an injury and hadn’t started until Wednesday.
There is a caudry of fans and pundits saying Shelton should start. He was out with a knee surgery for a few months, came back on loan with the Swope Park Rangers and struggled, but then he burst into the game Wednesday and had two assists in the huge comeback effort. I’d be willing to give the first assist to him, he played well by forcing the defender off the ball and laying it off to Salloi (though against a subpar defender being forced into a start by international call-ups). His second assist was still good, but I’d argue Vancouver had long since quit.
As for who starts, it’s between those two. Nemeth hasn’t really found a place in the team and might be a bad fit for center forward based on what we’ve seen from him so far. I could see Peter Vermes going with Rubio or Shelton and then around 60 minutes switching. I still think Rubio is the far better player as his touch is better, he passes far better and obviously he’s more likely to score.
As for the wings, Nemeth could be in the mix, but it’s probably a three player race between Russell, Gerso and Salloi. Daniel Salloi had an atrocious first half against the Whitecaps which included a passing percentage in the low 60’s (terrible in this or probably any system) and a horrid clearance that led to the Caps only goal. He obviously recovered half way through the second half scoring a brace. He may have just earned another start with Gerso with a very overused Johnny Russell available off the bench. I still like the idea of Gerso as the super sub to destroy tired defenses (and the same could be said of Rubio) but I’m not sure Vermes goes that way.
Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Fontas, Lindsey, Gerso, Shelton, Evans, Busio
We know for a fact Eric Dick, Amer Didic and Colton Storm are with SPR for their road playoff game Saturday. Likely Graham Smith, Kharlton Belmar and Kuzain made that trip too.
[The fan vote agrees with my lineup 100%, which is a nice change from recent weeks. There was a bit of a surge from some backups in the voting though with the following players coming the closest to earning a starting vote: Croizet (32.6%), Shelton (28.3%) and Gerso (21.7%).]
I’m afraid SKC are going to lose, I’m hopeful they’ll win, but I’d accept a draw. If Sporting head to Frisco and pull out a draw, that won’t be a huge disappointment. It will almost certainly mean they won’t finish first, but it’d put them in a good spot to finish top four in the West, even if top two is the real goal (though winning the West would probably be their stated goal). They can’t win the West on Sunday and in fact, they can’t even lock up a second place finish and first round bye. They can ensure themselves a top four spot and the first home playoff game since the 2013 MLS Cup victory if any of the following three things happen. Courtesy of SportingKC.com:
- Sporting KC beats FC Dallas, OR
- Real Salt Lake beats or ties Portland, OR
- Sporting KC ties FC Dallas AND Houston beats Seattle
So who wins or does anyone? It seems likely there will be goals with 10 goals being scored between the clubs in their two meetings this year (the aforementioned 3-2 Dallas win in July and a 3-2 win by Sporting in the US Open Cup in June). Also, Dallas has only failed to score once all season at home (a draw against a stingy Columbus Crew defense) and Sporting have only failed to score four times on the road (against New England, Philadelphia, Portland and Montreal) and all but one of those was in June or earlier. Now that’s I’ve said that, expect a 0-0 draw.
I’ll leave you with this. Sporting Kansas City have only beaten four teams that currently set above the red line. There are 11 teams (outside of SKC) above that line. Sporting need to win at least one of the next two games to really cement their playoff positioning and both games are against top ranked clubs. I just think all the travel might be too much. They’d have flown 3,600 miles just from Vancouver to Dallas. Instead they went to KC and then to Dallas. After going from KC to Vancouver midweek. That’s a lot of travel. I’m not convinced that Vancouver aren’t just a bad team that put out an even worse lineup. Hopefully, KC proves me wrong.