Sporting KC v New England Revolution (#NEvSKC)
Saturday, April 28, 2018 at 6:30 PM CT
Fox Sports KC+ | ESPN+
Seven straight games without a loss. Since the season opener (and who really remembers that game anyways), Sporting Kansas City have gone on a tear (5-0-2) to the top of the league. They have 17 points, tied for the most in the league, and enough (counting goal differential) to be atop the Supporters’ Shield standings. Now it’s a little early for all that talk, but things are good.
They will go back on the road where they are currently (2-0-1) to take on former SKC players Teal Bunbury and Krisztian Nemeth (technically Jalil Anibaba plays for them too) on the fourth place Revolution (3-2-2, 11 points). Gillette Stadium has hardly been kind to Sporting where they are 1-0-3 in their last four visits, including a 3-1 loss last season in the miserable stretch run Sporting put together.
The Revolution are a different team though. They are currently under first year head coach Brad Friedel, who is off to a pretty good start, despite some interesting coaching choices. He has played Nemeth for only 58 minutes this season and there were rumors New England was looking to trade him (of course Sporting KC was a rumored destination). Even more stunning is that Lee Nguyen hasn’t seen the field at all, and it could be argued he’s their best player. He’s also on the trade block with the Revs reportedly turning down $750,000 for him. Maybe Friedel knows something we don’t.
Saturday’s match-up is likely a pivotal one for the Revs who lost their last home game and will be looking to get back on track. Sporting KC should have their regular possession dominance (they are first in the league at 59.4%) as the Revs are willing to concede possession to counter (15th at 47.8%). Also, the Revolution are second in the league in fouls committed per game so Kansas City could have trouble creating a proper build up if play is constantly stopped due to rough play.
New England’s Offseason
Outside of the coaching change, the Revs have a pretty similar roster. One player they may be missing is Kei Kamara who was dealt to the Vancouver Whitecaps. In addition to not playing Nguyen and Nemeth the team actually lost defender Benjamin Angoua along with midfielders Gershon Koffie and Xavier Kouassi.
As far as additions, despite the team being loaded with offensive talent, most of their new players have come from the attacking roles. Their biggest impact so far as been Cristian Penilla who’s pace could give Zusi trouble. Penilla has two goals and four assists already. Another strong addition is Wilfried Zahibo who is actually a holding mid but already has four assists and a goal. They did add Gabriel Somi, who can play fullback but their defense is still lacking since the aforementioned Anibaba (who spent a single season with SKC) is a regular starter in central defense.
OUT: Gerso (thigh contusion), Adrian Zendejas (head injury)
QUESTIONABLE: Ike Opara (vertigo), Felipe Gutierrez (hip injury)
OUT: Kelyn Rowe (knee injury)
QUESTIONABLE: Isaac Angking (illness)
Sporting KC - None
Revolution - None
Goals: Felipe Gutierrez, Johnny Russell (5), Jimmy Medranda, Ilie Sanchez, Graham Zusi (2), Diego Rubio, Daniel Salloi, Yohan Croizet, Cristian Loboto (1)
Assists: Roger Espinoza (5), Daniel Salloi (4), Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton (2), Gerso, Jimmy Medranda, Yohan Croizet, Ilie Sanchez, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi (1)
Goals: Teal Bunbury, Diego Fagundez (3), Crisitian Penilla (2), Wilfried Zahibo, Juan Agudelo, Andrew Farrell, Chris Tierney (1)
Assists: Crisitian Penilla, Wilfried Zahibo (4), Kelyn Rowe, Juan Agudelo, Gabriel Somi (2), Luis Caicedo, Diego Fagundez (1)
Starting XI Predictions
There are actually some questions this week when it comes to a Starting XI. Peter Vermes has shown he likes consistency but there are several injury questions. First off, will Felipe Gutierrez return to the lineup? He got a late runout last week in the blowout against the Whitecaps, but is he ready to start? If so, that likely pushes Croizet back to the bench.
Next, is Ike Opara healthy? Our own Robert Rusert confirmed Ike is suffering from vertigo. With Ike’s prior head injury from last year’s scary US Open Cup game where FC Dallas forward Maxi Urruti inadvertently kicked him in the head, one has to wonder how serious this is. Head injuries are serious business. Look no further than Seth Sinovic and Matt Besler who have missed time over the last few years with concussion issues. No one said this was a concussion, but it can’t be taken lightly. Emiliano Amor had a good debut in Opara’s place last week but the Revs offense will be a much tougher challenge.
The last injury concern isn’t about starters, but instead about the bench. Gerso was out last week and one has to wonder if he’ll be healthy enough to be in the 18. This would be a good time to have Kharlton Belmar available on the bench but last week Vermes used Loboto (who apparently plays all the positions). It’s possible by the time the injury had happened Belmar was already on the way to Phoenix for his Swope Park Rangers game, but that’s unclear.
The rest of the lineup will likely stay the same. Khiry Shelton still hasn’t found a way to score, but everyone around him is picking up the slack. It’ll be interesting if Diego Rubio gets more minutes as he did have a brace against the Revolution last season and that back line could be suspect. Then again, New England haven’t given up a ton of goals this season, so maybe they have those problems fixed.
Rest of the 18: Dick, Rubio, Gerso, Lobato, Didic, Evans, Croizet
It will be interesting to see how Vermes uses his bench. With Brad Evans back from injury, no reason to keep Jaylin Lindsey buried on the bench with Evans capable of playing right back, center back (no thanks!) and defensive midfielder. Let Lindsey play with SPR and if he’s worthy, he can spot start for Zusi. But if he’s not playing with Sporting, get him field time in USL.
Croizet likely becomes the first guy off the bench if Felipe is starting again (since he likely isn’t 90 minutes fit) but after that your guess is as good as mine. Medranda has been creeping up in the midfield as he’s replaced by either Seth Sinovic or Lobato but that seems less likely with Croizet available as a sub.
[The fan vote is in and it appears you are all counting on healthy players as Gutierrez and Opara are starters based on the vote. Croizet is up to 40% of the vote but that still makes him a backup. Gerso is up over 25% but that seems unlikely coming off his injury. And two people bizarrely voted for Adrian Zendejas and Eric Dick (one each) over Tim Melia. Obviously a joke. If you’ve watched Dick with SPR he’s struggled with his distribution which is a big problem he’ll need to fix in the team’s current system.]
As for making a prediction. I’m growing to hate this part more and more. I keep predicting draws and getting wins from Sporting, which is great, but likely unsustainable. Something about going to New England just feels like a trap. The Revs are sneaky good offensively and they routinely pick Sporting apart at home and over the last few preseasons. Jimmy Medranda was badly victimized in Tucson this year, but he seems like the likely starter. Let’s hope it’s not true, but I’ll say New England ends the streak.