Sporting KC @ Minnesota United (#MINvSKC)
Sunday, May 20, 2018 at 1:00 PM CT
Fox Sports KC + | ESPN+
Sporting Kansas City are back on the road after an 11-day break in their second leg of the United road trip. This time they are playing in Southern Canada (h/t Eric) against Minnesota. Sporting KC are coming off a huge road win over Atlanta United, a team they actually have a better record against than Minnesota on the road. Last year, in two visits to Minnesota, Sporting KC went 0-1-1, with the first meeting being an embarrassing loss that basically cost Igor Juliao his job.
SKC enter the match on a two game win streak while Minnesota on the other hand are coming off a two game losing streak where they played three games in eight days. Additionally, Sporting are still first in the Western Conference (7-2-2, 23 points) while Minnesota are in seventh with a 4-7-0 (12 points) record.
By far the Loons biggest move was the in-season acquisition of their first ever Designated Player, Darwin Quintero. The 30-year-old midfielder is a diminutive 5’5” but he’s already proving to be the motor keeping this team running with prior acquisitions Kevin Molino and Ethan Finley sidelined with serious knee injuries. Quintero is making $1.65 million and appears to be worth every penny as he already has two goals and an assist since the transfer was announced at the end of March (related: Christian Ramirez is also back from injury and getting going, but he’s the 2nd highest player on the team at over $1 million less than Darwin).
Not much stands out with the rest of Minnesota’s acquisitions. First round SuperDraft pick Mason Toye has shown flashes in limited minutes but he also has a stupid red card to his name already (in his only MLS start). Other additions include MLS veterans Tyrone Mears and Eric Miller and a few players who are still a bit of unknown quantities in defender Bertrand Owundi Eko’o and midfielder Frantz Pangop.
As far as offseason losses, there was lots of turnover, but no real name value. Former Sporting KC man and often injured midfielder Bernardo Anor was jettisoned. MLS veteran Jermaine Taylor was as well. The biggest name is probably Johan Venegas who went out on loan to Costa Rican club Saprissa. All-in-all, the team was very bad last year so it makes sense that they got rid of a lot of middling players.
OUT: Felipe Gutierrez (sports hernia surgery) — out 2-3 months, Colton Storm (ankle sprain)
OUT: Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction), Kevin Molino (torn left ACL), Ethan Finlay (torn ACL), Marc Burch (left knee injury), Matt Lampson (right knee injury), Ibson (left thigh injury)
QUESTIONABLE: Tyrone Mears (right leg injury), Abu Danladi (right ankle injury)
Sporting KC - None
Minnesota - None
Goals: Felipe Gutierrez, Johnny Russell (5), Daniel Salloi (3), Jimmy Medranda, Ilie Sanchez, Graham Zusi (2)
Assists: Roger Espinoza (5), Daniel Salloi (4), Ilie Sanchez (3), Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton (2)
Goals: Kevin Molino, Ethan Finley, Christian Ramirez, Darwin Quintero, Ibson (2) — side note, it’s really poor that two of the five “leading scorers” on the team are out with long-term injuries.
Assists: Miguel Ibarra (3), 10 others with one.
Sporting KC - D/W/L/W/W (10 Points)
Minnesota - L/W/W/L/L (6 Points)
Starting XI Predictions
We all know Peter Vermes isn’t going to tinker too much with the roster, especially with things working so well. Diego Rubio has scored against Minnesota United before (the only SKC player to do so) but it seems PV values everything that Khiry Shelton does on the field (except the utter lack of goal-scoring ability) and he won’t get benched.
The only other positions possibly in flux revolve around Jimmy Medranda. Do you play him in the midfield or at left back. He’s probably the best option at both spots with Gutierrez injured. The smart play is probably Medranda in the midfield and Seth Sinovic at left back. However the last time Sporting played a team they should have clearly been better than (Colorado Rapids) they played Cristian Lobato at left back. That was a home game and teams tend to bunker less at home.
My guess is Yohan Croizet gets the start in the midfield and Medranda slides back to left back. Croizet has arguably already cost Sporting a game with his turnover in the New England Revolution that led to a goal. Then again, he was intricate in the win over Atlanta with that through ball to Khiry Shelton that led to the red card that changed the game. Let’s hope it’s most beautiful through balls and a lot less stupid turnovers.
Rest of the 18: Dick, Rubio, Lobato, Amor, Lindsey, Gerso, Sinovic
The bench continues to puzzle me. Jaylin Lindsey needs to be with the Swope Park Rangers getting minutes but it could be the utter disappointing play of Brad Evans that doesn’t give Vermes confidence he even belongs on the SKC bench.
[The fan vote lines up 100% with my predicted lineup. An interesting twist is Russell only getting 75% of the vote at forward (Salloi has 95% for comparison). Maybe people are (rightfully) worried he’s getting worn down. Something else to note is Croizet had 76.3% of the midfield vote compared to Medranda. I doubt that’s because people love Yohan there as much as they prefer Jimmy at left back.]
Sporting KC have not had four road wins in a season since 2015. They already have three in 2018. It seems like it should happen on Sunday, but Minnesota is tough to play against. It’s a classic trap game. These teams played on May 7th last season in a game where Vermes gave a couple starters a rest. I don’t anticipate him resting anyone but it could be said the Minnesota game started to derail the season last year. It was early, but after that loss they’d go on to lose three of five. A streak they didn’t match until the stretch run collapse.
All that said, they really should find a way to win against this beat up Minnesota squad but my gut tells me they may pull a draw out of the jaws of victory. Also, don’t forget Jair Marrufo is the center official. Mike could get you actual stats but my gut says we play worse when he’s the ref. Let’s try to avoid getting Marrufo ‘d.
The key if SKC want to get this done is to score first. When Minnesota concedes first, they are 1-7-0. When they score first they are a perfect 3-0-0. The key will be possessing the ball (which Sporting do well) and breaking down the Minnesota defense, which is apparently quite leaky. Then of course, Sporting just needs to finish their chances.