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Sporting KC v Orlando City: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

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A very short handed SKC team will head on the road needing a result.

MLS: Sporting KC at San Jose Earthquakes
The return of Dom Dwyer.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Orlando City (#SKCvORL)

Saturday, September 8th, 2018 at 7:30 PM CT

How to Watch: Fox Sporting KC+ | ESPN+ | 810 WHB

On Saturday, 13+ months after he was traded to Orlando City SC, Dom Dwyer will return to Children’s Mercy Park for the first time. On top of that, four years after Sporting Kansas City transferred him to Sporting Club de Portugal, Uri Rosell returns as well. The both come to town with an Orlando City team that has really been abysmal. They are tied for last place in the Eastern Conference (7-16-3, 24 points) and only four points ahead of the worst team in the league. They also have a league worst -21 goal differential. Yet somehow, this game could be close.

The reason the game could be close is because Sporting KC are absolutely decimated with international call ups, suspensions and injuries (details below).

Even with all the absences, Orlando are so bad, Sporting have to find a way to win. A tie at home simply isn’t good enough. Orlando have actually only won once in their last 17 (!) games. Only two of those 17 games were even draws (1-14-2). Additionally, they’ve lost nine straight road games.

To bring it full circle, one factor in that stretch was the absence of Dom Dwyer. He missed three straight games at the beginning of the losing streak and has taken time to find his form. Now he has scored in four of the last five games and he has quite the history of scoring in Kansas City as he’s the team’s second highest goal scorer behind only Preki.

It’s not all about Dwyer though. It’s really about Orlando’s terrible defense. They are the worst in the league allowing 2.35 goals per game (while SKC are scoring 1.85 per game — good for 3rd best in the league). If they continue to leak goals, it may not matter that Sporting’s three leading scorers (Rubio, Russell and Salloi) are all playing abroad this weekend.

Orlando’s Roster Changes

With these teams only meeting once a year, there has been a ton of changes. The one Sporting KC fans will care about the most is Oriol Rosell. Uri came back to MLS this season after mostly riding the bench in Portugal or going out on loan.

Orlando added a lot of other big pieces in Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram (who is already gone) and Josue Colman. Those moves largely haven’t worked out because Orlando is weirdly terrible despite their roster showing they shouldn’t be. Probably due to instability as they are on their third coach already.

Outside of Meram coming and going, they lost Kaka, Giles Barnes, Hadji Barry (who is with the Swope Park Rangers now), Cyle Larin, Tommy Redding, Antonio Nocerino and Carlos Rivas. MLS rosters tend to turnover quite a bit but maybe this is a bit much.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery - out for season), Cristian Lobato (quad), Kharlton Belmar (knee)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Orlando

OUT: Mason Stajduhar (Localized Ewing Sarcoma), Chris Schuler (groin injury)

QUESTIONABLE: Lamine Sane (quad injury)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - Ike Opara (yellow card accumulation)

Orlando - None (Sacha Kljestan & Dom Dwyer suspended next yellow)

International Call-Ups

Sporting KC - Diego Rubio (Chile - story), Daniel Salloi (Hungary - story), Johnny Russell (Scotland - story), Jaylin Lindsey (United States - story)

Orlando - Yoshi Yotun (Peru), Amro Tarek (Egypt), and Mohamed El-Munir (Libya)

Statistical Leaders

Sporting KC

Goals: Johnny Russell, Diego Rubio (8), Daniel Salloi (7), Felipe Gutierrez (5), Ilie Sanchez (4), Gerso (3)

Assists: Roger Espinoza (9), Johnny Russell (8), Daniel Salloi (7), Diego Rubio (5), Graham Zusi (4), Ilie Sanchez, Gerso (3), Khiry Shelton, Seth Sinovic, Yohan Croizet, Matt Besler (2)

Orlando

Goals: Dom Dwyer (12), Sacha Kljestan (5), Cristian Higuita (4), Yoshimar Yotun, Chris Mueller, Scott Sutter (3)

Assists: Yotun (10), Mueller, Kljestan (6), Josue Colman (5), Tony Rocha, Justin Meram (3)

Recent Performances

Sporting KC - W/W/W/W/L (12 points)

Orlando - L/D/L/L/D (2 points)

Starting XI Predictions

The big focus this week is all the missing players for sure. So much so that I already wrote a story about who should play forward. Long story short, Nemeth and Gerso are likely to start. The question becomes who starts along with them? My fear is that Yohan Croizet will play out wide. Honestly, due to all the injuries and call-ups, he might be the most likely option.

An intriguing option is Khiry Shelton. I’ve made it clear I’m not a huge fan but he’s practiced for two weeks and Nemeth can most definitely play on the wing. If Kharlton Belmar is healthy that’s a good option too. Some are assuming there will be a different formation but I’m not sure that is likely either, but Vermes has experimented a bit. No matter who plays between Croizet, Shelton or Belmar, none of them have 90 quality minutes in them either due to injury or because Croizet can’t play effectively for 90 minutes.

The next big question is who replaced Ike Opara. I can’t imagine it’s not Andreu Fontas. Two left footed center backs should work just fine. There could be an issue with Fontas’ fitness too.

Everything else (midfield, rest of the backline and GK) should stay the same.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Busio, Storm, Didic, Shelton, Kuzain, Evans

The bench is really thin even with all the Swope Park Rangers loanees called back. Shelton and Belmar might not be healthy enough. Lobato probably isn’t healthy enough. We have to assume Brad Evans will never play. It’s possible they won’t have a full 18 to suit up. If that’s the case then Graham Smith would end up in the 18 too.

With four healthy center backs, there could be a case for a three-man backline. It would be awfully defensive though with Seth Sinovic as a wingback. Maybe someone like Gerso plays wide on the left or Espinoza who has left back experience, Zusi wide on the right, the regular midfield plus Busio at the top of the midfield and Nemeth up top. I just can’t imagine it though.

[The fan vote is identical to my lineup above. I’ll chalk it up to the lack of options. The backup with the most substantial voting was Jaylin Lindsey (27.4%) but most of that likely came before he got called into the USMNT U-20 setup. After that, while Nemeth ran away with the center forward vote (83.9%) he got 16.1% of the winger vote and was eclipsed by Gianluca Busio (17.7%) who might be my favorite option to play on the wing just to see what he can do. He’s so good with the ball at his feet, the thought of him and Nemeth combining in and around the box is way more exciting than Croizet being there. We’ll see.]

I freaking hate predictions. Sporting KC should win but they find a way to disappoint in the matches that they should win. If they had their whole roster there is no doubt in my mind they pull it out. I’m less confident with all these missing players but I’ll say they find a way.

Prediction: 2-1 Sporting KC Win

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.