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Sporting KC v FC Cincinnati: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI and more

SKC return to MLS play after a bizarre week.

MLS: Portland Timbers at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC @ FC Cincinnati (#CINvSKC)

When: Sunday, April 7, 2019 at 2:00 PM CT

Where: Nippert Stadium

How to Watch/Stream: ESPN | ESPN Deportes | WatchESPN
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM

What a week for Sporting Kansas City. They had the highest of highs last Saturday when they crushed the Montreal Impact 7-1 at home. Then the lowest of lows as they were essentially eliminated from CCL play by Monterrey with an embarrassing 5-0 loss on Thursday.

On just two days rest the team flew from Mexico and will immediately hit the road to play FC Cincinnati for the first time in the history of the two clubs. Sporting will venture into hostile territory on Sunday. Cincinnati had 32,250 fans packed into Nippert for their home opener. That’s more than 10,000 seats above the capacity of Children’s Mercy Park.

And while many expansion teams struggle out of the gate, Cincy are off to a pretty decent start. They won the aforementioned home opener against the Portland Timbers and are currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-2-1 record and seven points to their name.

Sporting on the other hand are sixth in the West on the same seven points, but by their high standards have been up and down. Part of that reason is due to the CONCACAF Champions League and the brutal loss on Thursday allows the club to turn their attention away from that.

Interesting Stats

With there being no history between the clubs there is little to look at by way of stats. However, Sporting KC are quite good against expansion sides. Since 2005 when rapid expansion began in MLS, SKC are 9-3-3. They famously handed a much better LAFC club their first home loss in 2018, but they won’t get the chance to do that with Cincy. FC Cincinnati fell at home in just their second game at home of 2019. That was to the Philadelphia Union. The same Union SKC beat 2-0 earlier this season.

What’s Changed in Cincinnati?

I’d usually say “everything” for an MLS Expansion team but an abnormal amount of players made the leap from USL to MLS. But you don’t know those guys. As far as MLS talent, Cincy has been aggressive in acquiring it. They spent heavily on their defense to bring in Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps), Greg Garza (Atlanta United), Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers) and Nick Hagglund (Toronto FC).

They are also loaded up with about a dozen defensive midfielders, including Victor Ulloa (FC Dallas), Eric Alexander (Houston Dynamo) and Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes).

Their offensive prowess was much maligned but they’ve added some notable names in United States international Kenny Saief, Designated Player Fanendo Adi (Portland Timbers), Roland Lamah (FC Dallas) and former Columbus Crew SC member Kekuta Manneh.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT - Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery), Erik Hurtado (knee surgery), Daniel Salloi (ankle sprain), Jaylin Lindsey (torn meniscus)

QUESTIONABLE - None (or everyone for fatigue)

*The official injury report

Cincy

OUT - Jimmy McLaughlin (right ACL surgery)

QUESTIONABLE - Przemyslaw Tyton (hamstring tendinitis), Emmanuel Ledesma (hamstring), Kekuta Manneh (hip flexor)

PROBABLE - Kendall Waston (calf injury)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

Cincy - Fanendo Adi (drunk driving)

Stats

Sporting KC

GOALS - Krisztian Nemeth (4), Johnny Russell (3), Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez, Gianluca Busio (1)

ASSISTS - Johnny Russell, Roger Espinoza, Gerso Fernandes (2), Felipe Gutierrez, Ilie Sanchez (1)

Cincy

GOALS - Saief, Manneh, Leonardo Bertone, Waston, Allan Cruz, Mathieu Deplagne, Lamah (1)

ASSISTS - Saief (2), Manneh, Bertone (1)

Starting XI Predictions

Before Thursday I would have said, ‘rest every single starter. Save them for the Champions League.’ But now, there is literally no point. SKC cannot win CCL so they should probably consider playing every healthy body they have. Then again, this will be the third game in eight days, so injury risk and fatigue are real concerns.

Peter Vermes has available to him data that the rest of us can only dream of about player fitness and the taxing they’ve already put on their bodies this week. He has said in the past that the team should be able to play up to three times in a week and if they use the midweek CCL game as a chance to play backups and Swope Park Rangers (in the second leg against Monterrey), then there is no reason to suspect they won’t trot out a bunch of starters.

The question becomes, do the starters all start, or do some of them come off the bench? Russell, Nemeth and Gutierrez all got a rest on Thursday and didn’t play the whole game, so they could be targets to start.

There is really no other healthy wingers other than Gerso outside of Yohan Croizet, who needs time to grow into that spot as he constantly moves around positions in his limited minutes.

In the midfield Espinoza definitely needs a break but will it be Kelyn Rowe, or will Vermes stick with Busio who started ahead of Rowe and has gotten more minutes off the bench? It could be both of them if Felipe can’t start, but I suspect he will.

In defense, Rodney Wallace could get a run out at left back over Seth Sinovic and Nicolas Hasler was signed to be Zusi’s backup. However, Zusi is an ironman and will probably play with Hasler starting Thursday.

At center back, Matt Besler probably won’t rest but I suspect the recently injured Andreu Fontas should sit for the steady Botond Barath. Tim Melia is a goalkeeper, so he shouldn’t be exhausted but you just never know.

Here is my best guess, but at this point I have no idea.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Sinovic, Gerso, Zelalem, Rowe, Fontas, Espinoza

Fan Starting XI

The fan vote is predictably all over the place with the above issues in play. Sinovic (49%) edged out Wallace (45.1%) at LB. Felipe (49%) edged out Espinoza (45.1%) by the same margin. The totals were wonky, but you guys picked what I did outside of Sinovic and Gerso (74.5%). Other high vote tallies for non-starters: Fontas (37.3%), Rowe (31.4%), Croizet [wing] (27.5%), Zelalem (23.5%) and Zendejas (15.7%).

Nico Hasler wasn’t added to the poll but he was written in what I assume are seven times. Four times his name was used, one vote for “new guy,” another for “new RB” and finally one for Nick Hagglund, who actually plays CB for Cincinnati and I assume was an intended Hasler vote. Don’t worry, he’s an option in the poll now.

Prediction

God this game could be ugly. A tired Sporting KC team and a relatively ineffective Cincinnati team. The hard thing to know is will it be ugly and there will be sloppy/tired goals. Or will it be an awful game with no goals? On full rest Sporting run over this team. On two days rest, it’s anyone's guess. Because SKC are the vastly superior team, even with them being tired, I’ll say they find a draw.

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.