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Sporting KC v DC United: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI and more

MLS: D.C. United at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

Sporting KC @ D.C. United (#DCUvSKC)

When: Sunday, May 12, 2019 at 6:00 PM CT

Where: Audi Field

How to Watch/Stream: FS1 | Fox Deportes | Not ESPN+ (though go subscribe anyways)
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM

Things are not going well. It’s been five league games since Sporting KC won (0-2-3) and seven games in all competitions (0-4-3). Sporting Kansas City are all the way down to 10th place in the Western Conference. But hey, they just traded for Benny Feilhaber.

On Sunday, they’ll hit the road for the only time over a six game stretch where they were expected to pick up a lot of points (they have one point in two games so far). They’ll head to the nation’s capital to take on D.C. United who sit in second place in the East. DC are in a three-way tie with the Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact (both of whom lost to SKC) for first really, with goal differential setting the current seeds as all three clubs have six wins.

Interesting Stats

United are up and down as of late going 2-2-0 in their last four. The good news is Audi Field isn’t the fortress it was in 2018 as they are just 3-2-1 at home. Adding to that is the fact that SKC are 2-1-4 since 2011 on the road against United, but those games were all before Audi Field was opened. Over that same stretch Sporting conceded just three goals in seven games.

Overall, the teams have mostly played to low scoring affairs in recent years. According to SKC’s By the Numbers series:

“In 12 of the last 14 meetings dating back to 2010, neither team has scored more than one goal.”

The real question for SKC is if they can stop the bleeding defensively. They’ve allowed eight goals in four road games and 18 goals overall in 2019. The defense is likely to be without multiple starters again.

What’s Changed in D.C. in 2019?

The biggest subtractions for D.C. United are in the attack (though their biggest addition falls there as well). Out is winger Yamil Asad and striker Darren Mattocks. They’ve also lost roleplayers Nick DeLeon and Kofi Opare. Less likely to be missed are former Sporting KC man Kevin Ellis (now with the Kansas City Comets) and former Swope Park Rangers striker Dane Kelly.

The player likely seen as the biggest offseason acquisition is wide midfielder Lucas Rodriguez who arrived via transfer from Estudiantes out of Argentina. Other than that it’s Homegrowns and roleplayers all around. Homegrown Griffin Yow has been very impressive as a right winger with the United States U-17s along with SKC players Busio and Freeman, but he’ll be away on international duty still.

Other less exciting additions include Quincy Amarikwa, Chris McCann and recent acquisition, fullback Marquinhos Pedroso from FC Dallas.


Sporting KC

OUT - Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery), Erik Hurtado (knee surgery), Jaylin Lindsey (torn meniscus), Rodney Wallace (hip injury), Roger Espinoza (PCL), Gerso Fernandes (broken wrist), Andreu Fontas (calf injury), Kuzain (ankle injury)

QUESTIONABLE - Graham Zusi (oblique injury), Matt Besler (hamstring strain), Tim Melia (not injured but his wife had a baby)

*This story was updated with the official injury report on Sunday (though the predictions remain unchanged)

D.C. United

OUT - Oniel Fisher (knee surgery), Chris Odoi-Atsem (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma), Antonio Bustamante (knee injury), Joseph Mora (broken jaw), Donovan Pines (knee sprain)

QUESTIONABLE - Chris McCann (hamstring injury)


Sporting KC - None

D.C. United - None

International Call-Ups

Sporting KC - Gianluca Busio and Tyler Freeman (United States U-17s)

D.C. United - Griffin Yow (United States U-17s)


Sporting KC

GOALS - Krisztian Nemeth (6), Johnny Russell, Felipe Gutierrez (4), Gianluca Busio (3) Ilie Sanchez (1)

ASSISTS - Johnny Russell (3), Roger Espinoza, Gerso Fernandes, Graham Zusi (2), Felipe Gutierrez, Ilie Sanchez, Krisztian Nemeth, Kelyn Rowe (1)

D.C. United

GOALS - Wayne Rooney (6), Luciano Acosta (3), Lucas Rodriguez, Paul Arriola (2)

ASSISTS - Rooney, Junior Moreno (3), Rodriguez, Leonardo Jara, Acosta (2)

Starting XI Predictions

With all the injuries still lingering (Thad gave a great update on the Shades of Blue podcast), I’m going to do something different with this section. Instead of trying to guess what Peter Vermes will do, I’m going to suggest what I would do.

The front three are set with Salloi, Nemeth and Russell. Even though Russell hasn’t looked great, I’m willing to chalk that up to injuries around him, a sketchy midfield and the fact that Salloi was just inserted into the lineup.

In the midfield, if Ilie isn’t fully healthy, I’d rest him and start Benny Feilhaber. If Ilie is 100% (and signs point to him looking good in practice) then the debate becomes should Rowe or Feilhaber start next to Gutierrez? Either way, they should both play and either way, Gutierrez should move up in the midfield and not be pushed deep for the third straight week.

In defense, Zusi apparently missed practice this week and on the FS1 broadcast last week it was confirmed he was injured and almost didn’t play. It would explain his poor play if he’s dealing with one or more nagging injuries. Let him get healthy and play Nicolas Hasler.

Fontas has missed practice and though Besler is back in practice, it seems unlikely he’s ready. That leaves just Graham Smith and Botond Barath available after the Rwatubyaye trade, so they start.

At left back, though I constantly advocate for Seth Sinovic, playing four players who are heavy defenders may actual be a net negative. I’d put Croizet in at left back and let him push forward while the other three stay back. If SKC can get a lead, then let Seth close it out.

The last position, which we don’t usually bother talking about, is goalkeeper. Tim Melia is healthy but missed practice for the birth of his child. He’s not been in great form but I imagine he’ll still start over Adrian Zendejas.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Besler, Zusi, Zelalem, Sinovic, Ilie, [empty]

Bes and Zus would be for emergencies only. Zelalem is the only real offense on the bench with this move or Sinovic comes on and Croizet plays midfield or forward.

Fan Starting XI

The fan vote is bit wonky because many people voted before the Feilhaber/Rwatubyaye trade. Here is the XI you chose:


Hasler - Fontas - Barath - Sinovic

Rowe - Ilie - Gutierrez

Russell - Nemeth - Salloi

So you have Ilie, Fontas and Sinovic in, without the benefit I have of waiting later in the week to do a lineup. Feilhaber had 7.5% of the vote as a write-in even with the news coming mid-week. Here are the other players to receiver high votes that are non-starters: Zusi (42.6%), Zelalem (38.9%), Croizet [mid] (35.2%) and Smith (33.3%). If you add up all of Croizet’s votes across all the positions he plays he gets up to 68.6% of the vote, it’s just so chopped up by position. It really seems people want him to start, they just can’t agree where.


I’ve done terrible as of late with this part of the story. If SKC are healthy enough, it could be competitive. However, D.C. are happy to concede possession and hit Sporting on the counter (they are 15th in MLS in possession). It will come down to which team executes their style better. With the less passing savvy CBs in the game, it might be another rough one for SKC on Sunday.

2-1 D.C. United Win

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.

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