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Sporting KC v Colorado Rapids: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI and more

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Benny Feilhaber, Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio face Sporting KC as members of the Rapids for the first time.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Sporting KC
Benny returns home (well not really, the game is in Colorado).
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC @ Colorado Rapids (#COLvSKC)

When: Sunday, March 17th, 2019 at 8:00 PM CT

Where: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

How to Watch/Stream: FOX Sports Kansas City | FOX Sports Midwest Plus | ESPN+ | Fox Sports Go
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM

Sporting Kansas City head on the road for one last game before the FIFA International window opens up on Monday. It will be their sixth match in 18 days. A brutal stretch only exacerbated by the fact that it included trips to Mexico, Panama and Los Angeles within days of each other.

The Rapids, who have only played twice in 2019, will bring lots of familiar faces to the match-up as they are loaded with former Sporting Kansas City players. Kei Kamara was traded to Colorado by way of FC Cincinnati in the expansion draft. Benny Feilhaber signed as a free agent and Diego Rubio was dealt to the Rapids as a part of a three team deal with the New England Revolution that netted SKC Kelyn Rowe and some allocation money.

Coming into the match Sporting KC sit in seventh place in the Western Conference on three points while the Rapids are in ninth with just a single point (though it was a magical point while down a man in the snow). It’s probably a little early to talk standings but the points count the same both early and late in the season.

Additional points may be tough to come by in Commerce City as Sporting KC haven’t won on the road in Colorado in the last five meetings, including four losses before last years 2-2 draw that came down to the final moments. Rubio earned that draw and he’s on the other team this time out.

Interesting Stats

When looking at the Opta stats for Sporting and the Rapids, there is only one category where Colorado are top five in the league and it’s not a good one. They are second in fouls committed (13.7 per game). It could get chippy.

The Rapids are also in the bottom five in goals scored (23rd), shots on goal (23rd), shots (21st), possession (22nd), tackles won (23rd), interceptions (22nd) and shots faced (21st).

On the other hand, SKC are in the top five in seven categories after two league games (and they weren’t even great performances for the team). Sporting are fourth in goals scored (1.91), third in goals conceded (1.18) [side note: how is this not one per game?? Stoppage time?], first in shots (17.2) and shots on goal (6.1), second in passing accuracy (83.8) and possession (57.1) and finally fourth in shots faced (11.9).

The only categories SKC are in the bottom five are tackles won and clearances (both 20th) and that could be chalked up to not giving the other team the ball much.

What’s Changed in Colorado?

Lots! The Rapids are down 14 players year-over-year. They released Designated Player Shkelzen Gashi just before the season started. They traded away potentially their best player last year in fullback Edgar Castillo (Revolution). They also traded away Marlon Hairston (Houston Dynamo) and backup goalkeeper Zac MacMath (Vancouver Whitecaps). Other notable departures include Giles Barnes, Yannick Boli, Jack McBean and Enzo Martinez. They also declined the option on former SKC keeper Andrew Dykstra.

The additions, though, far outweigh the departures. They added the above mentioned trio of former SKC players (Kamara, Rubio and Feilhaber). They also traded for new backup keeper Clint Irwin (Toronto FC), midfielder Nicolas Mezquida (Whitecaps) and promising fullback Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union). Another player to watch is rookie of the year candidate Andre Shinyashiki, who already has a goal in this young season.

Besides all the changes, the Rapids have kept some key pieces in midfielder Kellyn Acosta, retiring goalkeeper Tim Howard, young center back Kortne Ford, defenders Tommy Smith and Danny Wilson and underrated midfielder Jack Price.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT - Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery)

QUESTIONABLE - Andreu Fontas (hip pointer), Daniel Salloi (ankle sprain), Erik Hurtado (knee injury), everyone else (fatigue)

PROBABLE - Gerso Fernandes (leg, flu)

Official Injury Report

Rapids

OUT - Kortne Ford (knee injury)

QUESTIONABLE - Sam Nicholson (back injury), Tommy Smith (knee injury)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

Rapids - None

Stats

Sporting KC

GOALS - Krisztian Nemeth, Ilie Sanchez (1)

ASSISTS - Johnny Russell (1)

Rapids

GOALS - Feilhaber, Shinyashiki, Kamara (1)

ASSISTS - Kellyn Acosta, Dillon Serna (1)

Starting XI Predictions

Six games. 18 days. Yet why do I get the feeling the “starters” will play again? Sure there is the FIFA break coming up, but some of these guys are going to be run into the ground or risk injury by playing again with just two days rest (which included traveling).

Let’s go with the sure things to start. Matt Besler and Ilie have played in every game in 2019 that counted. I suspect they’ll play again. Fontas missed on Thursday and wasn’t even in the 18, so I suspect they’ll not take a chance with him on Sunday meaning Botond Barath is back in the lineup (though Abdul Rwatubyaye did make the 18, so maybe he makes a surprise start, but I’d be stunned).

Roger Espinoza got a week off before the CAI game, so I think it’s clear he’ll start too, though playing him twice in a week is less than desirable if you want him healthy all year.

Graham Zusi is an iron man and played all the league games in 2018, so I expect him to go, though he has a capable backup in Jaylin Lindsey.

And due to Daniel Salloi being out and Gerso reportedly having a hurt leg and suffering from the flu, I suspect Johnny Russell has to play. Gerso will probably start opposite of him but Kelyn Rowe and Rodney Wallace are capable wingers and may get on the field there instead of the positions they were signed to play.

Felipe Gutierrez might start in the midfield, though Peter Vermes could run Gianluca Busio out for his second straight league start instead, though I doubt it. Kelyn Rowe could use a start next to Espinoza who will do all the destroying and allow Rowe to get forward into the attack.

As for forward, I’d start Erik Hurtado and sub him off for Nemeth, but I suspect Vermes will do the opposite.

Below is the lineup I think will play, but I really do think on such short rest Vermes should rotate at least half of the squad.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Wallace, Busio, Hurtado, Rwatubyaye, Gutierrez, Croizet

Could we see Zelalem in the 18? Maybe. I think it’s too early, but it would get attention.

Fan Starting XI

The fan vote is pretty split with lots of players picking up votes. The leading vote getters show some squad rotation. Here is your lineup.

Melia

Lindsey - Barath - Besler - Wallace

Rowe - Ilie - Gutierrez/Espinoza (tie)

Russell - Nemeth - Gerso

The tie between Espinoza and Gutierrez may be a first for us. Outside of that, here are the top vote getters who didn’t get enough to start: Hurtado (45.5%), Busio (45.5%), Croizet [wing] (44.2%), Zusi (40.3%), Sinovic (33.8%) and Fontas (27.3%).

Prediction

SKC are clearly the better team from top to bottom. But with having just played on Thursday and having to travel to elevation again, the deck is stacked against them. If the starters play they’ll likely be very tired come the 60th or so minute. If the backups play, they may be too disjointed to be successful. Despite how poor Colorado are historically, they are much improved this year (at least on paper). And it’s tough to play in their home stadium. A loss wouldn’t stun me but I’ll say Sporting fight for a draw with the Colorado goal coming from a former player, probably Diego Rubio.

1-1 Draw

What do you think? Predictions in the chat for both lineups and results are welcome. We can’t quite tell who you voted for in our other poll, so let us know why we are wrong.