Yesterday, in a story that almost slipped through the cracks, The Blue Testament’s Thad Bell reported that Ilie Sanchez was questionable to play against the New England Revolution.
Injury update: Fontas and Ilie are training today but PV was unsure if they are ready to play #sportingkc— Thad (@TheBackpost) April 26, 2019
“Injury update: Fontas and Ilie are training today but PV was unsure if they are ready to play #sportingkc”
The official injury report was released by Sporting Kansas City this morning and it was confirmed Ilie may not be able to play with a calf injury. The lineup should be out in a couple hours, but until then Sporting KC face the prospect of playing a MLS game without Ilie on the field for the first time in 51 straight games.
TBT’s Mike Kuhn reported that Ilie had made 50 straight league starts and he has since added another to that streak. The last league game that Ilie didn’t start is when he was an unused substitute on August 12, 2017 against the Seattle Sounders. That’s actually the only time he has not started a MLS game since joining Sporting KC before the 2017 season.
Who Would Play in His Place?
It could go one of a few different ways. The likely starter at the position would be Felipe Gutierrez if Ilie can’t go. Gutierrez has twice this season moved back into the defensive midfielder role when Ilie was subbed out against the Philadelphia Union and last weekend against the San Jose Earthquakes. Those two substitutions account for just 34 minutes that Gutierrez lined up at that position. Peter Vermes indicated back when Felipe was signed that he could play the #6 role.
If Gutierrez has to start and drop into that role, that would leave SKC forced to start Gianluca Busio and Kelyn Rowe in the dual #8 roles. That sounds good offensively, but their defensive workrate isn’t the same as Gutierrez and (also injured) Roger Espinoza provide.
Another possibility would be second year player Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal. He was roommates with Ilie in the 2018 preseason and was tasked by Vermes to study the way Ilie plays. Since that time he’s primarily been the defensive midfielder for the USL Championship side Swope Park Rangers. However, all his MLS appearances were at one of the two forward midfield spots. There is concern that Kuzain wouldn’t hold up to MLS level competition at a lanky 5’10”, 160 pounds.
A third possibility would be Gedion Zelalem. Zelalem has one start in MLS at a more forward midfield spot and he has multiple appearances for the Swope Park Rangers, though only one at the defensive midfield spot. In that SPR start, he was subbed off and Kelyn Rowe actually dropped back and played the defense midfielder spot, so he’s a fourth option.
Overall, let’s hope all this concern is for nothing and Ilie is healthy enough to play. If there was a game that SKC could maybe afford to be without him though, the Revolution may be that opponent. They enter the game playing three times in eight days and in pretty poor form.
The Walking Wounded
While the official team injury report removed Zelalem and Andreu Fontas from the report today, there is still a lot to be concerned with as six players are listed as out. The Blue Testament did a comprehensive look at Sporting KC’s injuries and timetables for return just four days ago. And while it’s already out of date with today’s news, it’s still worth a quick read.