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Sporting KC Have Been Lucky with Their Injuries

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Seriously! Hear me out!

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I know what you are saying. How is it lucky to have so many players hurt? The key is who is hurt. Jimmy Medranda has been out since early in the 2018 season and he isn’t likely to return until June or July.

The next injury came in the league opener against LAFC. But Andreu Fontas has already returned from that minor injury and he had one of the most capable backups in Botond Barath.

Next to go down was backup center forward Erik Hurtado. That news came two weeks ago today and his knee surgery will keep him out for 2-3 months, though the team is optimistic he could return sooner.

The next injury we actually knew earlier but it wasn’t announced until the day after the Hurtado surgery. Daniel Salloi is set to be out for about six weeks (a bit shorter than Hurtado’s new diagnosis). Then on Monday news came out that Jaylin Lindsey will miss 4-5 months due to a knee injury.

It all seems very bad, and honestly, it’s not great, but it could have been worse.

It’s All About Who is Hurt

Imagine for a second that the injury announcements included the names Ilie Sanchez, Krisztian Nemeth, Johnny Russell or some other player you deem to be the clubs most important. That would really sting. Nemeth is literally the only healthy center forward on the roster, a point we’ve driven home in the last couple of weeks.

If Ilie were hurt, many would consider it just as dire. He played all but six league minutes this year and he played every league minute in 2018. While he is critically important to the team, maybe the most important position on the field, there are players that at least play his role available to replace him. Even if it’s unclear that they actually could pull it off.

I could go on and on. The point is, at least it’s backups that got injured. Salloi was a starter last year, but his role has been more than handled by Gerso Fernandes (who himself had a knock coming in to Saturday but he played marvelously despite it). Lindsey is a backup. Medranda may be considered the starter but Seth Sinovic starts so much no one knows any different. And Hurtado is most definitely behind Nemeth.

The injuries are still going to be an issue though. Sporting Kansas City just started a stretch of five games in 16 days with this weekends stomping of the Montreal Impact. The starters will probably all play Thursday in Monterrey, but the following Sunday someone has to take the field against FC Cincinnati.

A Though Exercise for Cincy

Imagine you can’t play any of your starters against Cincinnati (and honestly, Peter Vermes really should try to rest players before the team plays Monterrey again the following Thursday).

Goalkeeper is a non-issue if you have to go to the bench. There are two healthy options in Adrian Zendejas and Eric Dick. Zendejas has gotten the nod in the past and likely would again.

Assuming the same starters as in the Montreal game, that leaves Sporting KC with Rodney Wallace, Botond Barath, Graham Smith and Abdul Rwatubyaye in defense. Barath can probably play right back or maybe they go with three center backs. Either way, it doesn’t look pretty.

In the midfield, options are more plentiful. There is Gianluca Busio, Wan Kuzain, Kelyn Rowe, Gedion Zelalem and Yohan Croizet.

At forward, it’s thin, real thin. Wallace and Rowe can play the wings technically. Rookie Tyler Freeman can play all three spots. And Yohan Croizet has played both wings and center forward already.

If Vermes is a slave to the 4-3-3, here is a (totally wrong) guess from right to left, back to front.

Zendejas

Barath - Smith - Rwatubyaye - Wallace

Busio - Kuzain - Zelalem

Rowe - Croizet - Freeman

There are technically enough players to make it work. If you get creative with the formation, more possibilities appear. Assume the 3-5-1-1 (maybe it was a 3-5-2) that SKC played against RSL last year in the Open Cup (I’d argue Russell was roaming underneath Kharlton Belmar in that game). You are forced to use the same players (assuming all the starters rest — which will never happen) because there are no other healthy bodies to choose from. The lineup could look something like this.

Zendejas

Barath - Smith - Rwatubyaye

Rowe - Busio - Kuzain - Zelalem - Wallace

Freeman

Croizet

Freeman can roam underneath Croizet who can hold up the ball. Zelalem and Busio can interchange into that role too. Wallace and Rowe both have experience at full back to sit in and on the wings to attack. The three center backs would be the biggest question with us not having seen Rwatubyaye at all. Smith has made large strides year-over-year, but that’s against USL competition.

Regardless of what lineup plays against Cincy, just know it could be worse if one of these backups were suddenly forced to start game in and game out. For better or worse I’m sure Besler and Ilie will at least be starters for the Cincinnati game so it won’t be all backups. If it were up to me and the first leg in Monterrey wasn’t a disaster, I’d play all backups and just see what happens. Better than risking injury or driving tired players into the ground.