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Sporting KC v Seattle Sounders: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI and more

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MLS: Seattle Sounders at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

Sporting KC v Seattle Sounders (#SKCvSEA)

When: Sunday, May 26, 2019 at 5:00 PM CT

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

How to Watch/Stream: FS1 | Not ESPN+ this week, but subscribe anyways
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM

Sporting Kansas City are on an upswing. Hear me out! Sure, they’ve not won a match since March 30th. It’ll be over seven weeks by the time they meet the Sounders on Sunday. But things are looking better.

They are two golazos away from four more points in the last two games. Two weeks ago, with an injury decimated team, they went on the road to (at the time) first place D.C. United and were level until late in the game with Paul Arreola hit a wonder strike from outside the 18-yard-box.

Last weekend at home they were up by a goal when Krisztian Nemeth picked up a red card. Despite being a man down, they stayed ahead until the 94th minute when Cornelius hit a beautiful volley to snatch two points. The results still suck, but Sporting KC are making progress.

At some point, progress has to turn into a victories. Either that, or the season will be lost.

In step the second place Seattle Sounders. They’ve racked up a 7-1-5 record (though just 2-1-2 without Chad Marshall) and 26 points. They are second in both the West and the Supporters Shield race. Sunday’s game won’t be easy, but it’s one that an improving SKC team has to find a way to pull off.

Interesting Stats

  • Since 2015 Sporting KC are 4-2-3 against Seattle during the regular season.
  • Prior to 2015 they were an abysmal 1-7-1.
  • Before last year’s 3-1 shellacking in September 2018, Tim Melia was 4-1-2 against Seattle with a 0.43 GAA.

What’s Changed in Seattle in 2019?

The biggest changes in Seattle are two old veterans that are no longer there. First, Chad Marshall retired on Wednesday (undoubtedly to avoid SKC). The other loss is all-time Sounder legend Ozzie Alonso. He left as a free agent to kick start the midfield of Minnesota United. Everyone else that left was nothing more than a roleplayer (Lamar Neagle, Aaron Kovar, etc.).

As far as additions the biggest hasn’t joined the squad yet. Seattle signed Xavier Arreaga on transfer from Barcelona SC (Ecuador). He’s a Designated Player and is the eventual replacement for Marshall. He could be with the team as early as today (Thursday). Other than that they traded for Jonathan Campbell who is currently playing center back next to Roman Torres.

They also just reacquired Joevin Jones, despite the fact that they are already full of attacking talent. Outside of that they’ve signed two very promising Homegrown players in Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Danny Leyva. Last, but not least, is former Sporting KC right back Saad Abdul-Salaam who has started two matches for Seattle, including their last one.

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)

QUESTIONABLE - Daniel Salloi (groin injury), Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery), Graham Zusi (oblique injury), Andreu Fontas (calf injury), Kuzain (ankle injury)

*This story has been updated based on the official injury report.

Seattle

OUT - Jordan Morris (right hamstring strain), Chad Marshall (retired)

QUESTIONABLE - Gustav Svensson (left hamstring strain), Victor Rodriguez (left hamstring strain)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - Krisztian Nemeth (red card)

Seattle - None (Nicolas Lodeiro suspended next yellow card)

Stats

Sporting KC

GOALS - Krisztian Nemeth (7), 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)

Seattle

GOALS - Jordan Morris, Raul Ruidiaz (4), Kelvin Leerdam, Cristian Roldan (3), Nicolas Lodeiro, Harry Shipp, Will Bruin (2), two with (1)

ASSISTS - Lodeiro (7), Brad Smith (4), Victor Rodriguez (3), seven with (1)

Starting XI Predictions

Peter Vermes: “I can’t play [Besler] in all three games.”

Sporting KC play three times in seven days. Two home games first. Sunday against Seattle and Wednesday against the LA Galaxy. Then the third game is on the road against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday. Rough.

Squad rotation is going to be tough. For three straight games Sporting Kansas City haven’t even been able to get an 18 player lineup sheet filled. So while the squad needs to be rotated (probably Wednesday or the following Saturday), it’s going to be very tough to do.

I expect Vermes to put out his best available 11 players against Seattle on Sunday.

One player that won’t play is Nemeth. I’ve already dedicated quite a few words to that, but a few days on I’m questioning some of my logic. I said Croizet would start as the default. I listened to the Talkin’ Touches guys talk about how maybe Croizet can’t start because he could be punished for his bad decision making against Vancouver. Plus I listened to lots of people on Twitter who have made some good points as well.

I want it to be Gianluca Busio. Because of that, even if I’m not sure it will be, that’s what I’ll go with.

Barring Zusi returning from injury, I imagine the backline and the midfield remain unchanged. Same thing for Tim Melia in goal and Johnny Russell on the right wing.

The other position up for some debate is left wing. Gerso is practicing. Salloi was questionable last week and probably will maintain that status this week. Muscle pulls are tricky so starting him seems risky. Rowe was serviceable at LW. He wasn’t exactly dangerous going forward but he worked really hard (a trait Vermes loves) and he tracked back and played solid defense. It’s probably his job for another game.

The only other options are Croizet if he’s not at center forward (or somewhere else) and probably Tyler Freeman. Freeman did only play 45 minutes for Swope Park Rangers on Wednesday and that could be to save him for the SKC game. He’s not been great for SPR though (his man scored the opening goal in the Memphis 901 FC game Wednesday). Busio may be an option here too, but I suspect it’ll be Rowe.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Smith, Zelalem, Freeman, Medranda, Croizet, Zusi

Keep an eye on the Swope Park lineup from Saturday to see who’s availability could be impacted. It’s a road game in Tampa Bay so I don’t suspect anyone (except maybe a GK) will get loaned out, but that depends on the health of all the other SKC players. Someone may get loaned out to work on fitness.

Fan Starting XI

The fan vote is very similar to mine but with one change. Yohan over Busio, but it was really close. Yohan got 34.3% of the center forward vote with Busio getting 31.4% (as of this writing). Salloi had 22.9% and Russell snagged 8.6%. It’s a stark contrast to the huge margins Nemeth wins that vote by.

Here are the other positions where backups got a decent amount of votes: Salloi [wing] (27.1%), Croizet [wing] (22.9%), Zusi/Fontas (14.3%).

Prediction

Sporting KC can win this game. The loss of Nemeth will make it a lot tougher though. Someone has to step up. Russell, Busio, Gutierrez, Feilhaber. Maybe Rowe or Croizet break through. It’s going to take a strong defensive performance and some offensive magic.

One thing in Sporting’s favor is, however bad SKC are, Seattle are actually pretty poor on the road. They are 1-1-3 on the road versus SKC being 2-1-3 at home. Neither is great. Sporting’s home form is honestly pretty abysmal compared to prior seasons. Four weeks ago we asked how many points SKC needed in this six game stretch.

Through four games (three of which were at home) they have just two points. The poll in that story had just one person (of 125) vote that SKC would end with three points or less. Literally no one voted for four to six points. If SKC want to land in the seven to nine point range (where only 18% of the voters landed) they’ll need to win both this game and the Galaxy game. 81% of the voters thought SKC would get 10 or more points which is now statistically impossible. Kind of shocking.

Let’s hope for a win but a draw or loss feels more likely when comparing the clubs.

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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