Sporting KC v Vancouver Whitecaps (#SKCvVAN)
Friday, April 20, 2018 at 8:00 PM CT
Fox Sports KC+ | ESPN+
First place Sporting Kansas City (14 points) plays host to the third place Vancouver Whitecaps (10 points) and much better weather (probably -- it is Missouri/Kansas, you just never know) on Sporting’s first Friday night game of the season. Because the game is on Friday, and SKC just played the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, it’ll be the closest back-to-back games of the season yet for Kansas City.
On Friday, Sporting will be looking for revenge against a Whitecaps squad that beat them twice in 2017, including a 1-0 home loss on the back of an Erik Hurtado goal in late September to start SKC’s 2017 death spiral. If I recall correctly, Sporting were fighting for first place but after that loss would fall so hard they barely made the playoffs.
When the teams play earlier in the season, the results are much better. Sporting did lose early on the road to Vancouver last year, but at home in game in August or earlier, they have won three in a row, including that 4-3 thriller from 2015 that included a Paulo Nagamura brace and three late goals to steal a victory.
One good piece of news for Sporting KC heading into the game is the Whitecaps are struggling. Kei Kamara picked up an injury and will miss at least the next three games. Additionally, the Caps are losers of two straight and have only won once in their last five games. For Sporting’s part, they haven’t lost since that stinker of an opener against New York City FC and are 4-0-2 since that time.
The biggest loss for the Whitecaps is likely offset by their biggest game. Out is Freddy Montero, who went to Portugal with Sporting CP (the same club Uri Rosell went to for KC a few years back) and in is former SKC man, Kei Kamara. Other key losses include midfielder Christian Bolanos and goalkeeper David Ousted.
As far as other editions, the biggest name is probably Doneil Henry, a midfielder who previously played for West Ham United. Another big edition was Efrain Juarez, a midfielder who will likely be expected to play a key role in 2018.
The other name on the list is Venezuelan striker Anthony Blondell who had been out with a concussion but will be expected to step up for Kamara this week as he likely returns from injury. The 23-year-old is capable of scoring as he led the Venezuelan Primera División in goals in 2017 with a stunning 24 goals.
QUESTIONABLE: Felipe Gutierrez (hip injury)
OUT: Jordon Mutch (left hamstring injury), Kei Kamara (adductor strain)
QUESTIONABLE: Sean Franklin (quad strain), Anthony Blondell (concussion)
Sporting KC - None
Whitecaps - None
Goals: Felipe Gutierrez (5), Johnny Russell, Ilie Sanchez, Graham Zusi (2), Diego Rubio, Daniel Salloi, Jimmy Medranda (1)
Assists: Daniel Salloi, Roger Espinoza (3), Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton (2), Gerso, Jimmy Medranda (1)
Goals: Kei Kamara, Brek Shea (3), Alphonso Davies, Erik Hurtado (1)
Assists: Kei Kamara, Alphonso Davies (2), Jordan Mutch, Cristian Techera, Russell Teibert, Efrain Juarez, Felipe Martins (1)
Starting XI Predictions
Our own Robert Rusert asked Peter Vermes about squad rotation and frankly, Vermes was not concerned. At least not yet. He did concede that Johnny Russell will need rest come summer but don’t expect that to start on Friday.
So basically, we’ll stick with the old adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Expect the same lineup from the last two games (one win and one draw). The only possible change again would come if Felipe Gutierrez is healthy enough to play, but PV is also a guy who doesn’t take chances with injured players. Especially his new star Designated Player. Maybe he comes off the bench, but he didn’t last weekend (as he wasn’t even in the 18 yet). At some point he’ll be back in the lineup and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if Vermes doesn’t give a warning.
Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Rubio, Gerso, Sinovic, Amor, Lindsey, Gutierrez
It’ll be interesting to see if Kharlton Belmar finally gets some first team minutes since he’s playing so well with the Swope Park Rangers but there seems to be no indication of that happening just yet and SPR will likely need him to deal with Phoenix Rising on the road Saturday.
[The fan vote is in and you guys agree — outside of the hopes Gutierrez is healthy and can start. Croizet and Medranda are actually starting to get midfield votes, so that’s something. Tim Melia has our first clean sweep with 100% of the keeper votes coming in for him. The lowest vote getting starter is Medranda, but if you add in his midfield votes to start, he moves up. Then Khiry Shelton becomes the lowest voted starter at 65.2%. Likely it’s a combination of Rubio and Salloi replacing him with Gerso sliding to the wing.]
On to my least favorite part of these stories. Who wins? I really feel like Sporting should win. But I thought that last week against Seattle too. Vancouver is a team struggling but, despite the recent goal output, Sporting don’t look the same without Gutierrez in the lineup.
If I had my way, I’d start Sinovic at left back and Medranda over Croizet in the midfield. Then Yohan can play a sort of super-sub role and either Medranda comes off or slides back to LB. I didn’t put that above because I doubt Vermes does it, but I think it would work. Instead I’ll say Blondell gets a goal (his first in MLS) and Sporting look at a little tired and are lucky to get one point. Now if we could just get Vermes to use his subs earlier.