Sporting KC v Chicago Fire (#CHIvSKC)
Saturday, March 10, 2018 at 5:00 PM CT
Fox Sports KC | MLS Live (free at live.mlssoccer.com for out of market fans)
You only get one home opener and that didn’t go so well. Now Sporting Kansas City will go on the road and face the Chicago Fire in their home opener and season opener. They were one of three MLS teams that didn’t play on opening weekend. At least one team will have to sit out every weekend with 23 teams now in the league.
Going on the road didn’t work out so well for Sporting KC in 2017 as they only were able to squeeze out a win twice (2-8-7). The Fire on the other hand won 12 (!) times at home (12-2-3) and scored an astounding 41 goals. For comparison SKC only scored 40 home and away combined (Chicago had 61).
For that reason, don’t be stunned if Sporting KC look at little more defensive in Week 2. Their defensive lapses were noticeable during the first game of the season because both goals felt like the type of attempts that wouldn’t have made it into the net in 2017. Cristian Lobato got a lot of blame, but he wasn’t alone in his defensive shortcomings (and he had the defensive play of the game).
Lobato with a huge recovery run to break up a 2 on 0. pic.twitter.com/O9izjmhJBu— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) March 5, 2018
Now Chicago could be taking a down-turn in goals scored for 2018 with the trade of King David Accam to the Philadelphia Union. Looking to replace King David will be new signing Aleksandar Katai. He is a Serbian winger from La Liga side Deportivo Alavés. He, like Johnny Russell and Felipe Gutierrez for SKC, joined the Fire late in preseason.
Outside of Katai, they added MLS veteran Tony Tchani from the Vancouver Whitecaps. Beyond that they have their 2018 first round pick Jon Bakero, Homegrown signing Grant Lillard and Rafael Ramos from Orlando City SC.
It’s what didn’t change that could make Chicago threatening. Dax McCarty is back. Some guy named Bastian Schwinsteigher. And the 2017 MLS Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic. Much like Sporting KC, they collapsed down the stretch, so let’s hope that losing streak extends by one more game for the Fire.
QUESTIONABLE: Brad Evans (lower back injury)
OUT: Djordje Mihailovic (right ACL surgery), Michael de Leeuw (left ACL surgery), Jonathan Campbell (facial fracture)
Sporting KC - None
Chicago - None
Starting XI Predictions
Peter Vermes is a coach who doesn’t like to make lineup changes. Despite how bad the fans reacted to the loss, Vermes was shockingly calm. It’s entirely possible that he sticks with the same lineup and gives them more of a chance to gel. New York City FC are a really good team (second in the 2017 Supporter’s Shield standings) but it’s not like the Fire are bad (third in those same standings).
My gut tells me Vermes doesn’t make any changes, but I just can’t not make changes after that game. I say Lobato has to come off for the much better defender in Seth Sinovic. It sounds like Khiry Shelton will be in the 18 (per our own Thad Bell) but that doesn’t mean he starts. Salloi could take that spot but Vermes has seemed to value him on the left wing. That just leaves Rubio to start again, despite being invisible in the opener. I’ll put in Salloi on the LW, slide Russell to the RW and move Croizet to the bench. But that Designated Player label may keep him on the field despite a poor Week 1.
Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Shelton, Gerso, Croizet, Lobato, Amor, Lindsey
That hopefully means Gerso is the first off the bench. Shelton and Croizet would also be available. Vermes used all three subs (relatively early too) in the home opener. It could be because the team desperately needed a change, but it also could be that there are is so much offensive depth. More of that please!
[The fan vote mirrors my lineup except Rubio goes to the bench and Salloi takes his spot which moves Gerso out to the wing. Everything else is the same. Inexplicably Melia didn’t get a clean sweep again in the GK vote. Opara nearly got 100% of the vote with just one person saying he shouldn’t start — and it could be argued he looked poor. Where the votes are closer are Sinovic (37.1%) over Lobato (29.3%). Nothing else was very close, but Croizet got 33.6% of the midfield vote, which is creeping up on Espinoza (69%), who had a solid first game. As a reminder, I don’t look at the fan voting before making my picks.]
When it comes to picking a winner, I’m batting 0.000 so let’s not put too much weight on this. The Fire are an astounding 26-15-11 against Kansas City and 18-4-2 at home. That doesn’t seem to bode well. Let’s up SKC at least find the back of the net.