Sporting KC v Minnesota United (#SKCvMIN)
Saturday, August 25, 2018 at 7:30 PM CT
How to Watch: Fox Sporting KC+ | ESPN+ | 810 WHB
As Bob laid out earlier this week, Sporting Kansas City needs approximately eight points to ensure a fourth place Western Conference finish (and a home game in the playoffs) and about 15 to get to second and a first-round bye in the playoffs. There are 10 games left to do it and the first of those 10 feels like a golden opportunity.
Minnesota United are coming back to Kansas City for a tale of two teams headed in the opposite direction. Sporting KC are winners of three straight, two on the road (Houston and LAFC) and last week at home against the suddenly plummeting Portland Timbers. Sporting are in second place in the West with 42 points and are just three points out of first.
Minnesota on the other hand are winless in their last four (0-3-1) and are in ninth place with 29 points and are currently eight points below the red line to get into the playoffs. Another reason Sporting must take advantage of this home game is that they are a perfect 3-0-0 at home against Minnesota all-time. That includes a 4-1 beat down back at the beginning of June. That one goal is the only one ever allowed to Minnesota at Children’s Mercy Park while Sporting have scored 11 of their own.
One of the true success stories of Sporting KC’s recent success — both in the league and against Minnesota — is Diego Rubio. Rubio has scored in each of his last two appearances against United and he has three goals and an assist in his last three MLS appearances (the last two of which are starts).
The signing of Krisztian Nemeth as his possible replacement and the accelerated progress of Khiry Shelton’s injury recovery have no doubt lit a fire under Rubio to prove the job of striker should be his. Something a lot of people were saying before and throughout the season.
Minnesota’s Roster Changes
This is the third meeting between these clubs (the only team Sporting will meet three times in regular season play) so you are probably familiar with Minnesota, but you can always go back to the first preview to see offseason roster changes.
Since that time, some big moves have been made, even if they are few and far between. Former lead striker Christian Ramirez is out and playing for Los Angeles Football Club, where Sporting KC ran into him a couple weeks ago. That move was possible because Minnesota made a transfer from Deportes Tolima to acquire striker Angelo Rodriguez.
In addition, as detailed on the podcast this week, an unfortunately named Brazilian veteran was added to the roster. Fernando Bob is a new midfield addition. He plays the holding midfield role that most SKC fans will associate with Ilie on Sporting. He was trialing with the team before officially joining, so it’s possible he could be available quickly.
The other addition is another Ibarra, this time Romario Ibarro on transfer from Universidad Catolica. He’s already debuted and appears to play more of a wide midfielder role for the club.
OUT: Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery - out for season), Khiry Shelton (knee surgery), Brad Evans (calf), Cristian Lobato (quad)
OUT: Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction), Kevin Molino (torn left ACL), Ethan Finlay (torn ACL), Maximiano (right knee injury)
QUESTIONABLE: Darwin Quintero (calf injury)
Sporting KC - None (Opara suspended next yellow)
Minnesota - None (Michael Boxall & Francisco Calvo suspended next yellow)
Goals: Johnny Russell (8), Daniel Salloi (7), Diego Rubio (6), Felipe Gutierrez (5), Ilie Sanchez (4), Gerso (3), Cristian Lobato, Jimmy Medranda, Graham Zusi, Khiry Shelton (2)
Assists: Roger Espinoza (9), Daniel Salloi (7), Johnny Russell (6), Graham Zusi, Diego Rubio (4), Ilie Sanchez (3), Khiry Shelton, Gerso, Yohan Croizet, Matt Besler (2)
Goals: Darwin Quintero (10),
Christian Ramirez (7), Miguel Ibarra (6), Ibson (4)
Assists: Quintero (9), M. Ibarra (7), Francisco Calvo, Rasmus Schuller, Ibson (3)
Sporting KC - L/L/W/W/W (9 points)
Minnesota - W/L/L/D/L (4 points)
Starting XI Predictions
There is a big part of me that says to keep things the same. Three straight wins. Three straight shutouts. Though I stand by my prior assessments that some luck was involved. Let’s recap:
- Sporting KC beat a Houston Dynamo team that was down a man very early in the match and they barely found a goal.
- Then SKC went on the road and played LAFC who were playing their third game in eight days, including a 120+ US Open Cup game just days before.
- Sporting returned home to put a beatdown on a tired Timbers team who also played three games in eight days.
So while things seems good, the next few games will prove a lot. First, Sporting must do what they are supposed to do and beat Minnesota at home.
There is no doubt in my mind Rubio should keep starting. Salloi seems to be playing better with Rubio next to him after slumping for a bit. And Gerso has played well during this stretch also. Johnny Russell has been a stud all season, but letting him come off the bench is so dangerously delightful I see no need to change it (and some more rest can’t hurt down the stretch). This team bashed Minnesota United last time out with Cristian Lobato on the wing, so maybe it doesn’t matter with all the SKC attacking talent and the utter lack of MNUFC defense.
Of course the midfield will remain unchanged and likely the back line as well. The only real question that remains is still probably left back. Seth Sinovic has played well in all three shutouts but again because of the timing they all have an asterisk for me (as would this game). Jaylin Lindsey actually went on loan to the Swope Park Rangers on Sunday and he played with a back line that gave up three goals to Reno 1868. I say it all stays the same and Seth stays on the field.
Rest of the 18: Dick, Lindsey, Busio, Fontas, Nemeth, Russell, Croizet
[Updated: August 24th our own Thad Bell confirmed Andreu Fontas would be in the 18 this weekend so he’s replaced Amer Didic as the likely backup CB in this prediction.]
[The fan vote is nearly identical with the only change being Russell returning to the starting lineup over Gerso. Otherwise, it’s all the same. Here are the top vote getters who aren’t starters: Gerso (44.4%), Nemeth (23.5%), Lindsey (22.2%), Busio (11.1%) and Nemeth as a winger (7.4%).]
For the last two weeks I’ve been making predictions that I’ve openly stated I don’t believe will happen. I’m not superstitious so I need to stop acting like it. Sporting KC will get the job done. If they don’t, maybe they don’t deserve a home playoff game or a bye.