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Sporting KC v New York Red Bulls: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

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Winless in their last three, Sporting KC look to turn it around on the road.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Sporting KC Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC @ New York Red Bulls (#NYvSKC)

Saturday, July 14, 2018 at 6:00 PM CT

Fox Sports KC | ESPN + | Sports Radio 810 WHB

Sporting KC have been in poor form as of late going 0-2-1 across a triple game week, narrowly picking up a single point with a home draw against Toronto FC this past Saturday. The schedule doesn’t lighten up as SKC play five straight games against teams above the red line as the playoff hunt picks up. Three of those are on the road against the Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles FC and Saturday’s opponent, Red Bulls New York. All three teams are averaging greater than 2.00 points per home game at 2.45 ppg.

One of good thing about visiting the Red Bulls is that Sporting are 3-1-1 when visiting Red Bull Arena in the regular season, a mark that stretches all the way back to 2012. Outside of league play, the two teams met in last years Lamar Hunt US Open Cup final, a game Sporting KC won 2-1 via goals from Daniel Salloi and Latif Blessing. Salloi will return from a one game red card suspension and Latif is gone, but no one would argue Johnny Russell isn’t a stronger replacement.

Another good thing for Sporting are that New York recently lost coach Jesse Marsch to RB Leipzig of the Bundesliga. In the single game since he’s been gone, RBNY lost 1-0 to NYCFC, a team they have historically dominated at home and on the road.

Sporting will look to get things going as they’ve won just two of their last eight games (2-2-4). Both teams sit next to each other in the Supporters Shield race. Sporting KC are fifth with 33 points through 19 games and the Red Bulls are sixth with 32 points through 17 games.

Red Bulls’ Roster Changes

Going into the season Sacha Kljestan looked like the biggest loss after averaging 17 assists the last three seasons but Kaku is making the fans forget him. They also lost disappointing DP Gonzalo Veron, veteran midfielder Felipe, former SKC man Sal Zizzo along with other veteran defender Damien Perrinelle and wide midfielder Mike Grella.

The biggest addition to RBNY is by far Kaku via transfer from Huracan. He’s the most expensive signing in Red Bulls history and he appears to be worth it. He has three goals and 10 (!) assists so far and he wasn’t even a regular starter at the beginning of the season.

Defensively New York added Tim Parker, who may be the best center back in MLS this season via trade from the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Otherwise, the Red Bulls are all in on the youth movement. Florian Valot was an addition from the USL but he just tore his ACL last week. They’ve also added a slew of other USL and Homegrown signings that have contributed despite not being all out stars yet.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Jimmy Medranda (bone bruise in leg), Khiry Shelton (knee surgery), Cristian Lobato (knee tendinitis), Brad Evans (Achilles)

QUESTIONABLE: Felipe Gutierrez (sports hernia surgery), Ike Opara (hamstring)

Red Bulls

OUT: Florian Valot (torn left ACL), Kyle Duncan (torn right ACL), Vincent Bezecourt (MCL sprain)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None (Roger Espinoza suspended next yellow card)

Red Bulls - None (Tim Parker suspended next yellow card)

Statistical Leaders

Sporting KC

Goals: Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russell (6), Felipe Gutierrez (5) Diego Rubio, Ilie Sanchez (3), Cristian Lobato, Jimmy Medranda, Graham Zusi, Khiry Shelton (2)

Assists: Roger Espinoza (8), Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russell (6), Ilie Sanchez (3), Khiry Shelton, Gerso, Yohan Croizet, Diego Rubio (2)

Red Bulls

Goals: Bradley Wright-Phillips (11), Daniel Royer (4), Alejandro Romero Gamarra (Kaku), Florian Valot, Derrick Etienne Jr. (3)

Assists: Alejandro Romero Gamarra (Kaku) (10), Sean Davis (6), Florian Valot, BWP (5), Marc Rzatkowski (3)

Recent Performances

Sporting KC - D/W/L/L/D (5 points)

Red Bulls - D/W/W/W/L (10 points)

Starting XI Predictions

Sporting KC will finally enter a game without having played any games in a week. They do have another game on Wednesday against the Dynamo in the US Open while New York have previously been eliminated by the Philadelphia Union. Regardless, expect Peter Vermes to play his starters because after Wednesday’s game they won’t play for 10 more days.

The team will be lifted by the return of previously suspended players Espinoza and Salloi.

The front line will likely consist of Salloi and Russell on the wings and Diego Rubio in the middle with Shelton recently undergoing surgery. Kharlton Belmar could play over Rubio but it seems unlikely since he went the full 90 with the Swope Park Rangers on Tuesday and his only SKC start ever is in the Open Cup and he has a mere 35 minutes of MLS play this year.

The midfield will likely be Espinoza, Ilie and Croizet. Yohan is probably the only question mark as he played poorly last weekend and is nothing if not inconsistent. The only other true option to start over him is Kuzain, who hasn’t shown much as an attacking midfielder, though he is a safer play than the up and down Croizet. Felipe Gutierrez reported traveled with the team on Thursday and could be available off the bench, but that feels risky since his original return target was the August 4th Houston game.

The backline has two question marks. Ike Opara is reportedly available despite going down with an injury last weekend. The safe play would be to rest him with his long injury history. Emiliano Amor next to Matt Besler is something I’d like to see since Amor plays the more risky CB style that Opara usually plays.

The other question is who plays left back? Seth Sinovic is the on-again, off-again starter but Jaylin Lindsey has played very well despite being out of position. It always seems like Vermes is looking to replace Sinovic and this could be another instance of that.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Sinovic, Gutierrez, Opara, Kuzain, Gerso, Belmar

[The fan vote is 100% the same as what I have. I suspect the Opara injury looked worse than it turned out to be on Saturday as he only got 18.2% of the vote. The closest battle was actually on the wing with starter Russell getting 56.4% while Gerso picked up 50.9%. I suspect people really want Vermes to rest Russell (as he should at some point) but I think we all know he’ll run him into the ground. Here are the other top vote getters of the non-starters outside of Gerso and Ike: Kuzain (30.9%), Belmar (27.3%), Shelton (9.1%), Zendejas (5.5%) and... that’s it. No one else was above 4%.]

I’ve gotten so bad at picking these (despite accurately picking that dumb RSL defeat) that no one trusts this portion anymore. It doesn’t feel like Sporting KC have fixed things and the road always seems so hard on them. They really need to win to pull out of the swoon before it happens but I suspect BWP will bag at least one goal (he has seven in his last eight games against SKC).

Prediction: 1-1 Draw

Who do you think will start? Who do you think should start? And what is your prediction for an outcome? Let us know in the comments.