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Sporting KC v Vancouver Whitecaps: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI and more

SKC really need this one.

MLS: Sporting KC at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Vancouver Whitecaps (#SKCvVAN)

When: Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 7:30 PM CT

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

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

The streak is up to eight games in all competitions since Sporting Kansas City pulled off a win (0-5-3). In league play it’s a slight better 0-3-3, but it’s still pretty abysmal to get just three points in six games, three of which were home games. Sporting KC play their next three at home and the Whitecaps have to be considered the easiest of the three opponents.

The Caps just played in Vancouver on Wednesday and get just two days rest and a long flight between that game and Saturday’s showdown at CMP. Despite that, the Whitecaps will be anything but easy to defeat. Vancouver are two points ahead of Sporting in the standings (though SKC have two games in hand). More importantly is that Vancouver play stout defense and are averaging just over a goal allowed per game while SKC have allowed nearly two goals per game.

Interesting Stats

  • Sporting KC played Vancouver twice in 2018. A 6-0 win at home and a 4-1 win on the road that saw Gianluca Busio open his MLS scoring account.
  • SKC are 8-3-3 all-time against the Caps in MLS play and the last player to beat KC for Vancouver, Erik Hurtado, now plays for Sporting (though he’s been injured most of the year).
  • Prior to 2018’s wins by Sporting, the Whitecaps had won four straight meetings between the teams in all competitions including helping eliminating them from the 2016-2017 CONCACAF Champions League group stage by beating them twice (Hurtado also scored).

What’s Changed in Vancouver in 2019?

The biggest change is the man in charge. Marc dos Santos, the former coach of the Swope Park Rangers (their first coach), is now in charge in Vancouver. He’s changing the culture and to complete that he’s heavily turned over the roster. How heavily? 21 players have left since the 2018 season ended. The roster can only hold 30 players.

The biggest departure is Canadian superstar Alphonso Davies who is now with Bayern Munich. Other big names out are Kendall Waston, Kei Kamara, Cristian Techera, Brek Shea and Nicolas Mezquida. They are also without current SKC player Erik Hurtado, who they traded to Sporting and former SKC player Marcel de Jong.

The additions they’ve made are mostly names you might not know. The most noticeable is Fredy Montero who returned to the Caps after a year away. A name that might fly under the radar is fullback Ali Adnan who dos Santos has said is the best left back in MLS. The rest of the names aren’t ones you are likely to know but it’s a heavy mix of transfers and loans as MDS tried to fill out his roster before the season started.

Injuries

Sporting KC

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

QUESTIONABLE - Daniel Salloi (groin injury), Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery)

*This story was updated on Saturday. Besler was removed from the injury report. Zusi was downgraded to out.

Vancouver

OUT - Michael Baldisimo (left ankle contusion), Jasser Khmiri (left knee injury), David Norman Jr. (right foot surgery), Yordy Reyna (left hamstring strain), Jon Erice (ankle sprain), Lass Bangoura (hamstring)

QUESTIONABLE - None

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

Vancouver - None

International Call-Ups

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

Vancouver - None

Stats

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)

Vancouver

GOALS - Fredy Montero (3), Doneil Henry (2), Lass Bangoura, Yordy Reyna, Inbeom Hwang, Erik Godoy, Andy Rose, Lucas Venuto (1)

ASSISTS - Victor “PC” Giro, Bangoura, Reyna, Russell Teibert, Montero, Ali Adnan, Hwang, Henry (1)

Starting XI Predictions

There are so few healthy bodies it’s difficult to pick a lineup. That said, it’s really about trying to predict who is healthy enough to play. Last weekend, Sporting KC only fielded 15 of a possible 18 players. They were eligible for an Extreme Hardship call-up but they didn’t use one because the Swope Park Rangers had just played the day before in Nashville and because the Rangers are dealing with injuries of their own.

As a quick reminder, here is the Extreme Hardship rule:

Clubs may add players to their roster in cases of “Extreme Hardship.” Extreme Hardship exists when an MLS club has: (a) fewer than four available outfield substitutes (less than 14 outfield players available) OR (b) has fewer than two goalkeepers available.

USL Player Short-Term Agreements in cases of Extreme Hardship: A club may sign players from its USL affiliate (on loan) to Short-Term Agreements (up to four-day contracts) for MLS League Season games only in cases of Extreme Hardship.

So before predicting the lineup, let’s predict who could be on a short-term loan from the Swope Park Rangers. The first choice is probably Felipe Hernandez because he’s the most MLS ready player on the roster and he’s had years with both the Rangers and the SKC Academy.

If Besler is unable to play (or sit on the bench) SKC could opt to make a loan for an emergency center back. That primarily leaves SKC’s second round SuperDraft pick from 2019 that signed directly to the Rangers, Camden Riley as the main option. Several other SPR players are internationals and SKC don’t have any open international spots so it’s likely they cannot loan one of them up.

As for who will start, it’s probably going to look similar to last week. With Salloi’s new injury, if he can’t go, Yohan Croizet or Kelyn Rowe are likely to fill in. Croizet is probably the most likely player to step into that role.

The midfield will probably be the same with Ilie Sanchez, Benny Feilhaber and Felipe Gutierrez. Gianluca Busio will wrap up the U-17 CONCACAF Championship today (Thursday) so he could be available, but it might be a stretch after all the soccer he’s played the last few weeks.

The backline may remain unchanged with the only real variable being if Besler can play or not. If there is any question, I’d rest him. He was a full participant in practice though, so he could be back.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Besler, Zelalem, Rowe, Salloi, [empty], [empty]

Fan Starting XI

The fan vote is a bit different. You guys have Besler barely coming back (54.1% to Smith’s 42.6%). The other change you guys have (and I prefer if he’s healthy) is Salloi over Croizet (75.4% to 27.9%). Everything else is the same. Here are the other top vote getters who aren’t starters: Zusi (45.9%), Fontas (24.6%) and Zelalem (8.2%).

Prediction

In 2018, Yohan Croizet scored only three MLS goals. Two of them came against the Whitecaps. Obviously those were against a very different team. I suspect Vancouver’s defense will be vastly improved compared to the combined 10-1 scoreline Sporting KC laid on them over two games last year.

Could Yohan find his moment of magic? Sporting KC better hope they can pull something out with tough games coming against the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy. Unfortunately, they’ve shown nothing recently to prove they can do that, despite looking better against D.C. United.

Despite their recent form, they should still find a way to win with Vancouver coming off a midweek loss, but dos Santos will probably give Vermes trouble. And Vancouver actually played pretty well against Atlanta United and only loss on what appeared to be a soft PK call. Maxime Crepeau has played out of his mind in goal and that seems likely to continue Saturday.

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.

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