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Nine Overreactions to Sporting KC v Phoenix Rising

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We freak out about goals, Russell, Rubio, Lindsey and injuries. Oh the injuries!

Chad Smith

If there is one thing we all know about preseason is that everything we see is of the utmost important. It just means so much! Obviously, that is a bit of an overreaction. Hence, the purpose of this series of articles. We are all starved for some Sporting Kansas City action after the season ended too early once again. Before seeing today’s overreactions though, I recommend you look back at the prior articles in the series.

Ilie will Outscore Rubio

So far through five preseason games Ilie Sanchez has one goal and Diego Rubio has zero goals. These are called overreactions for a reason. Ilie had never before scored in a Sporting KC uniform and he did get a bit of help from a deflection from Phoenix Rising, but none-the-less he has more goals than Rubio.

Diego hasn’t played bad during the preseason, but he was the projected starting center forward going into preseason and he had a good goals per 90 ratio in 2017 (0.53 in the regular season). All offseason it looked like Sporting would add a Designated Player at the #9 spot (and they are supposedly still working on doing that) but maybe that’s shaken Rubio. So much so it’s starting to look like Khiry Shelton may get the start over him on opening day (against Shelton’s old team, no less).

Shelton is Everywhere

Speaking of Shelton, he is all over the pitch. Every time you look up he’s tracking back and stealing the ball. He’s bringing down balls in the box, he’s dishing simple but beautiful passes to Daniel Salloi (to pick up an assist) and he’s flipping out wide and playing the wing at times. If you turn around quick enough, he’s probably standing right behind you right now. Yes you!

It’s exactly that type of hustle, speed and size that may mean Shelton is the Day 1 starter over Rubio, who everyone assumed would start. Vermes of course wouldn’t commit to who is ahead of who but did admit he liked what he say from Shelton.

Chad Smith

Everyone is Going to Get Hurt

In 2017, Sporting KC had a pretty good season in terms of injuries. Gerso injured both shoulders, Ike took that scary bicycle kick to the head, EPB was nicked up a bunch, but generally speaking the team was healthy. In preseason Graham Zusi and Jimmy Medranda have missed four straight games, though Vermes says they’ll play next Wednesday.

Now though, Matt Besler has officially missed his first preseason game. The team has indicated he was hurt, but then Vermes said he was just resting. Who knows. I did snag a picture of him with some minor taping done to his leg.

Jaylin Lindsey Should get Minutes

Even though he’s only 17-years-old, Jaylin Lindsey is doing a pretty good job with the first team while Zusi recovers from injury. It’s widely assumed that the coming signing of Brad Evans will mean he will be Zusi’s backup and Lindsey and Colton Storm will head out of loan with the Swope Park Rangers.

However, there is an argument for playing the kids. If Lindsey were to get some first team minutes, maybe he’d be more likely to sign long-term, unlike Erik Palmer-Brown. The same could be said for Gianluca Busio, who has played pretty well in preseason, but did have a bit of a down game against Phoenix (outside that very near miss from the top of the box).

I suspect Lindsey will still end up with SPR but at least he’ll get lots of minutes there, something that wasn’t available to EPB when he joined SKC. I understand playing a rookie could lead to mistakes, which could lead to dropped points and someone like Evans should be better equipped to come in and play at a higher level, even if he’s already hit his ceiling as a player.

Daniel Salloi will lead the team in goals scored

Of all the players on the pitch, Salloi looked most comfortable in front of goal. He had a howler or two, but mostly he was accurate and found himself in the right spot. He seems to be a natural goal scorer and that has shown in games an practice. Before the game, Salloi, Espinoza, Croizet, Felipe and Shelton were taking practice shots against Tim Melia and only Salloi consistently buried his attempts. There were an alarming amount of badly missed shots from the other players considering there were no defenders on them.

If Salloi can get into double digit goals, that may make him the highest scorer on the team with this “goals by committee” approach.

The Goals Simply Won’t Come

Of the five preseason games, only two are against MLS teams (Red Bulls and Rapids). In those games only three goals were scored and one of them was scored by Felipe Hernandez, who plays for Swope Park. Gerso and Shelton had the other two, both against Colorado.

The fact that only two goals were scored against Phoenix (and Ilie’s took a lucky deflection) and Phoenix didn’t even have most of their starters on the pitch, isn’t a good look. They had plenty of chances in and around the box, but little to show for it. Two goals a game in MLS would be great considering how many 0-0 and 1-0 and 1-1 games the team was involved in (15 times last season) but this wasn’t against MLS competition. And when Phoenix put their starters on, no more goals were allowed. I’ll concede that Sporting subbed off most of their starters about 15 minutes into that and that Phoenix Rising look to be quite good in 2018, but still it’s not going to quiet the restless fans.

Russell Did Nothing

While that above statement is technically true, he was only with the team for a couple days and he had flown from Europe to KC to Arizona all really close together. In my interview with Vermes, it almost sounded like he was already reassuring Russell, who was probably disappointed in his first appearance. He played 15 minutes two different sets of players though, not allowing him to establish any rhythm. And yes, he had some bad touches and got off to a rough start. So even though we are overreacting, let’s all just calm down.

What will be interesting to see is how Russell handles MLS. The English Championship and MLS are often compared as equal leagues. If Russell shines as he did with Derby County, maybe that will be confirmed. If he struggles though, maybe it shows how far MLS has come and how it may be a bit tougher of a league than people give it credit for.

Amor and Didic Looked Good

Amer Didic got the start with an injured (maybe not injured) Matt Besler on the bench. And Emiliano Amor looked good in his limited minutes next to rookie Graham Smith. These two should more than alleviate any concerns that center back depth is an issue with Erik Palmer-Brown gone.

It will be interesting to see who is the 3rd CB behind Opara/Besler. Didic got the call on Saturday, but experience definitely seems to lean towards Amor.

Speaking of Opara, what was up with that awful turnover that led to the goal? I guess even the defending MLS Defensive Player of the Year can be in preseason form.

USL Has the Worst Announcers

A lot of people were commenting about how bad “Phoenix Rising’s” announcers were. Well in defense of Phoenix, the announcers are in Florida and do not work for the team. So their inability to pronounce “Sinovic” or “Salloi” can’t be blamed on PRFC.

What is inexplicable is how they didn’t know who anyone is after the subs took place. It seems if they are going to put announcers in another state, they could have a protocol in place in that situation. Especially because we knew who all the Phoenix subs were going to be at the start of the game. Simply have the team send over their official game day lineup.

The version Sporting KC gave me in the press box even had a pronunciation guide. So really no excuse from USL is acceptable for me. And for those still wondering, Yohan Croizet is “CRAH-zay” per the guide. I’m still stumbling on that one. For those wondering about Brad Evans, he is on the team sheet and listed as a trialist. He’s also the oldest player on the roster if he gets signed.

We’ll be sure to freak out more after Wednesday’s game against the New England Revolution in Tucson for Sporting’s 3rd game in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup.