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Sporting KC v LAFC: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

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It all comes down to this for first place in the Western Conference.

MLS: Sporting KC at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC @ Los Angeles Football Club (#SKCvLAFC)

Sunday, October 28th, 2018 at 3:30 PM CT

How to Watch: FS1 | ESPN 94.5 FM |

The playoffs are assured. Where Sporting Kansas City are seeded in the playoffs are all but assured. There are lots of complicated scenarios but let’s keep it simple. If they win or tie against LAFC, they’ll be seeded first. If they lose and FC Dallas beats the Colorado Rapids (likely) and the Seattle Sounders beat the San Jose Earthquakes (likely) then SKC fall all the way to fourth. No matter what, they’ll play at Children’s Mercy Park, but if they lose, they are very likely to have to play Wednesday instead of getting to wait until next weekend to play. Needless to say, there is a lot on the line against LA.

Of course, just as much is on the line for Los Angeles FC. They are currently sitting in second place and need to win to clinch first. If they tie or lose, they stand to potentially tumble in the standings as well. They will come prepared and they will be pushing for all three points.

When the schedule came out and the game ended facing LAFC, it just felt like a lot would be on the line and it’s 100 percent the case. It’s a chance for former players Benny Feilhaber and Latif Blessing to return “home” and cause problems.

And for those out there thinking that “Sporting already beat LAFC in LA,” don’t get overconfident. LAFC had just played a very long US Open Cup game three days before that meeting and Sporting got the advantage of not playing a first choice lineup.

LAFC come into this game on a hot streak. They are 6-1-3 in their last 10 games. The one loss was on the road, but they’ve gone 2-1-1 on the road, so it’s not like that’s a sure thing. On the season they are 7-7-2 on the road, which isn’t bad, especially considering they are an expansion team and in 2017 Sporting KC only won two road games all year.

Another unfriendly stat to Sporting KC is that LAFC has scored in their last 12 road games and they’ve scored in 94% of them overall this season.

LAFC’s Roster Changes

Since the last meeting between these clubs on August 11th, the only subtraction from the roster is Laurent Ciman, who SKC avoided playing the first time anyways.

As far as roster additions, there are none. If you want to know more about LAFC, we covered that here.

Injuries

Sporting KC

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

QUESTIONABLE: None

LAFC

OUT: Quillan Roberts (right fibular fracture), Mark-Anthony Kaye (fractured ankle), James Murphy (concussion)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None (Roger Espinoza would be suspended next yellow card, but per the 2017 league rules yellow cards won’t carry forward into the playoffs if he picks up just one yellow).

LAFC - None

Statistical Leaders

Sporting KC

Goals: Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi (10), 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)

LAFC

Goals: Carlos Vela (13), Diego Rossi, Adama Diomande (12), Latif Blessing (5), Walker Zimmerman (4), Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, Laurent Ciman (3)

Assists: Vela (13), Rossi (9), Blessing, Feilhaber (6), Marco Urena, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Nguyen (5), Diomande, Steven Beitashour (4)

Recent Performances

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

LAFC - W/L/W/W/D (10 points)

Starting XI Predictions

The lineup debat is back in full swing yet again. Just when things seemed settled, Khiry Shelton has burst back onto the scene in the last two games with outstanding performances. Peter Vermes has typically gone with the hot hand and that’s what I suspect will continue. Though some have made the case Shelton’s size, positioning and strength are great on the road and the creativity and scoring prowess of Diego Rubio would be better served starting him at home. I suspect that won’t factor in, I just ask that if the team needs a goal that Vermes actually uses his subs and doesn’t wait until the waning minutes of the game.

Outside of that, the lineup feels settled. Salloi and Russell have shown they deserve to start on the wings and while this stat could be misleading, when Salloi, Shelton and Russell start together, SKC are 8-1-3. It’s true one or more of them were injured when the Missouri/Kansas summers were the hottest and most humid, but it doesn’t change the fact they played well together when they had the chance.

Everything else in the lineup, should stay the same with the exception of Yohan potentially getting back into the 18. Jaylin Lindsey should still be available, though he’ll head off to National Team duty right as the playoffs start so fullback depth is suddenly a potential issue.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Fontas, Lindsey, Gerso, Rubio, Croizet, Busio

Swope Park Rangers played in Phoenix on Friday night, so it’s unlikely Eric Dick, Colton Storm, Amer Didic, Kharlton Belmar, Kuzain or Graham Smith will be available for the bench.

[The fan vote is in overwhelming agreement with my above assessment. The only thing that was even close was center forward. Shelton pulled in 61.3% with Rubio getting 32.3%. No other player exceeded 10% of the vote. Here were the highest vote tallies for non-starters: Fontas (9.7%), Busio, Gerso (8.1%) and Croizet (6.5%).]

I won’t lie guys, I’m nervous. LAFC are really good. That would be a hell of a feather in Bob Bradley’s hat to win the Western Conference with an expansion team. Arguably a better achievement than what he did with the expansion Chicago Fire in the 90s (probably not, they won it all, but there were way less teams).

LAFC also has players like Vela and Rossi who can break a game open at any moment. When Vela came on as a sub in the last meeting, he had just played a ton days before and he still almost scored. He’s capable of the magical.

Lots of people are picking SKC wins. I’m not as confident. I’ll be happy if the team pulls out a draw and just gets into the playoffs in first place. A win would be great for momentum and make Sporting KC the clear top team in the West, but whatever happens, losing can’t be an option. The knockout round of the playoffs isn’t in the end of the world, but it means less rest and a chance to get upset in a one off game on Wednesday.

Prediction: 2-2 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.