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Sporting KC v Toluca FC: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI

Leg two is in Mexico on Thursday.

MLS: Champions League-Toluca at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Toluca FC (#TOLvSKC)

Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 9:00 PM CT

Watch: YahooSports.com

Sporting Kansas City got off to a dream start last Thursday in the CONCACAF Champions League at home in Children’s Mercy Park. A 3-0 dominant performance against a Liga MX club. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But the series is far from over. SKC are currently in Albuquerque, New Mexico adjusting to the altitude they’ll face in Mexico this Thursday.

How to Advance

With SKC being up 3-0, they did one critical thing at home outside of scoring all those goals. They kept a clean sheet. With Toluca scoring zero goals in KC, a single away goal in Mexico for Sporting would mean Toluca need to score at least five goals to win. That’s a pretty tough ask considering they haven’t scored in seven straight games. Also, in eight league games and one CCL game they’ve scored just six total goals in 2019.

If Sporting don’t score, they can advance with a draw or a loss by two goals or less. If Toluca win 3-0 then the game goes straight to penalty kicks without any extra time.

Two Toluca Updates

In case you missed it in the last week, Toluca fired their coach. SKC can’t take all the credit as Toluca went on to get trampled 4-0 over the weekend to Santos Laguna who also played midweek in the CCL, but Santos Laguna actually won. It still seems fair for Peter Vermes to put this scalp up on his wall as he should have for getting coaches in Seattle and Los Angeles fired over the last few seasons.

The other story is one that is still developing. When the railing collapsed at CMP last Thursday, fans tumbled from the stands and the railing landed on the toe of midfielder Felipe Pardo who is out 4-6 weeks. It’s honestly shocking to watch and so unexpected.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT - None

QUESTIONABLE - Yohan Croizet?? (I haven’t seen it reported anywhere but he was missing from the 18 and Andy Edwards mentioned it in the Talkin’ Touches podcast after the game that he was hurt. There are no official injury reports from Sporting in CCL it would seem.)

Toluca FC

OUT - Alexis Canelo (broken leg), Felipe Pardo (fractured left toe)

QUESTIONABLE - None

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None (Seth Sinovic suspended with next yellow card)

Toluca FC - None (Rodrigo Salinas & Osvaldo Gonzalez suspended next yellow card)

CCL Stats

Sporting KC

Goals - Krisztian Nemeth, Gerso Fernandes, Ilie Sanchez (1)

Assists - Gerso (1)

Toluca FC

Goals - None

Assists - None

Starting XI

The real dilemma is created 100 percent by the fact that Sporting KC have to play in LA against Los Angeles Football Club three days after playing at 8,700+ feet in Toluca on Thursday. That’s short rest no matter what, extremely short when you consider the altitude. If not for that, there would be no reason to consider making changes to a lineup that ran over Toluca at home.

Instead, Vermes is forced to think about balancing his lineup for the Champions League so that he doesn’t run out a complete second team lineup in LA. That said, all offseason Vermes has said he’s building the squad to have two sets of 11 players for this very reason. If SKC advance, they’ll play again next week against Independiente out of Panama (who coasted past Toronto FC in the first round). They won’t even have time to return home from LA or Mexico but instead would head straight to Panama. Whoever starts against Toluca may need the weekend off, even if that means a potentially disappointing opening to MLS league play.

For that reason and because of the fact that Vermes is putting such an emphasis on CCL, I suspect a first choice lineup will play on Thursday. That’s what I’ll predict, but it’s not what I would do. I would switch it up and try to rest some players for LA. Let Rodney Wallace get in at left back to avoid a potential Sinovic suspension. Let Rowe start over Espinoza or Gutierrez. And give Erik Hurtado the start over Nemeth. Hurtado could torment the defense with his pace and physical play and it would leave a higher level of talent for LA.

Regardless of who starts, if Sporting KC score a goal, I’d bring players like Johnny Russell, Graham Zusi or the above mentioned players to the bench to preserve them. Scratch that, it’s what I’d do, but it’s not what PV will do. He doesn’t like to mess with a good thing. And in CCL, you just never know what’s going to happen so maybe he’s right.

Rest of 18: Zendejas, Barath, Hurtado, Rowe, Wallace, Croizet, Salloi

The only change I think may happen is if Croizet really was hurt, that he’s in the lineup over Gianluca Busio. He can run around like a bull in a china shop and he can sub in at so many spots that his positional diversity would be valued in this competition. Also, if SKC score, he’d be a great early sub to save the legs of whoever he replaces (Russell?).

How the Fans Voted

In the weekly fan vote, you all overwhelming agreed Vermes wouldn’t change anything. It wasn’t even close (just like it wasn’t even close last week for this exact lineup with the exception of Salloi over Gerso). Here are the top vote getters outside of the starters: Daniel Salloi (32%), Kelyn Rowe (23%), Rodney Wallace (20.5%) and Erik Hurtado (9%). It should be noted that no one received 100% of the vote. That includes Tim Melia. I can only assume Eric Dick, Adrian Zendejas or one of their family members read this site.

Prediction

Here at TBT we didn’t write a formal preview last week with all our content coming out around the start of games that matter. Hindsight is obviously 20-20, but I would have probably picked a win, though never by the margin that SKC pulled off. Then again, I did send this tweet.

I hedge my bets a bit but good things happened a lot sooner than I thought (though I should have probably hidden my love of catchy pop-punk from you all). As for what happens this week? It’s hard to say, but I will make one prediction that I think is likely to work out. Sporting KC will advance. Maybe it’ll be via a win, a tie or even a loss. But SKC will advance.

1-1 Draw

I’ll leave you with this stat. In four total trips to Mexico for SKC, they’ve never won. In fact, they are 0-4-0. But in all four of those losses, they’ve scored a goal. So as long as that happens, even if they lose 4-1, they’ll advance on away goals. Honestly, after that debacle in the MLS Cup Playoffs against the Portland Timbers, away goals owe it to KC.

What do you think will happen in the lineup? What is your prediction for the game? Let us know in the poll and comments below.

Poll

What will be leg two’s result?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    SKC Win
    (61 votes)
  • 27%
    Draw
    (36 votes)
  • 21%
    SKC Lose but Advance
    (29 votes)
  • 5%
    Toluca Win and Advance
    (7 votes)
133 votes total Vote Now