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Sporting KC v Toronto FC: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI, Stats, Injuries

Onto Canada for the second road game of June. A June with zero home games on the schedule.

MLS: Toronto FC at Sporting KC Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC @ Toronto FC (#TORvSKC)

When: Friday, June 7, 2019 at 6:00 PM CT

Where: BMO Field

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

Friday marks the last game (outside that US Open Cup game against Minnesota United) in a long, brutal run without a break for Sporting Kansas City. They are an abysmal 1-4-5 in their last 10 league games since the 7-1 thrashing they handed the Montreal Impact. Putting that aside, despite getting just one win against Seattle Sounders recently, Sporting KC are looking better.

What isn’t looking better is their spot in the standings. They enter Friday sitting in 10th place in the West and four points out of the last playoff spot. That means, regardless of result, they’ll be below the redline at least another two league games. Prior to 2019, SKC had only been below the playoff line for a single game in June or later for the prior seven season. Seven years!! And that was when less teams got into the playoffs.

The good news is Toronto FC aren’t faring much better. In their last 10 games they are 2-6-2, which is also pretty terrible. Two teams. Eight points each over about two months of the season. Yikes!

More good news is that even though Sporting KC are missing players to injury and national duty, Toronto are down quite a few players as well, including all their offensive stars outside of Alejandro Pozuelo. But he’s a pretty big star.

Interesting Stats

  • Sporting KC hold a 14-4-7 lifetime advantage over Toronto FC (though much of that came when Toronto were very bad).
  • When playing in Canada, SKC have a 5-3-4 record against Toronto. Respectable.
  • Toronto have lost more to Sporting KC (14 times) than they have to any other team in MLS club history.

What’s Changed for Toronto in 2019?

Toronto are a team trying to recover from a horrific 2018. Out is Sebastian Giovinco, their all-time leading scorer. In is a pretty handy replacement in Alejandro Pozuelo who is the team’s leading scorer and leader in assists. He had a pretty terrific debut and he’ll be one to watch out for on Friday.

Another big move will have zero impact on this game. Former United States center back partner of Matt Belser, Omar Gonzalez, will join the team during the secondary transfer window on July 9th, though the move was announced Monday.

One new defender they will have is Laurent Ciman who also joined the team through the Allocation process. He joined the team in December after prior stints with the Montreal Impact and Los Angeles Football Club. The Reds have made several other moves but an understated move for Nick DeLeon through the Re-Entry draft has brought in a veteran who has added two goals and three assists.

The additions likely outweigh the subtractions, though it could be debated. Also gone is Canadian veteran Tosaint Ricketts (option declined), back-up goalkeeper Clint Irwin (traded to the Colorado Rapids) and center back Nick Hagglund (traded to FC Cincinnati). Another big subtraction is 2017 midfield star Victor Vazquez who dropped off in 2018 and has now been transferred to Al-Arabi SC (Qatar Stars League — where Nemeth was sold to after 2015).

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)

QUESTIONABLE - Matt Besler (hamstring)

*This story has been updated from the official injury report. Gerso and Botond were removed from the report.

Toronto

OUT - Auro (hamstring strain)

QUESTIONABLE - Michael Bradley (hamstring injury), Chris Mavinga (undisclosed injury)

International Duty

Sporting KC - Johnny Russell (Scotland), Krisztian Nemeth (Hungary), Botond Barath (Hungary), Nicolas Hasler (Liechtenstein)

Toronto - Michael Bradley (United States), Jozy Altidore (United States), Jonathan Osorio (Canada), Ashtone Morgan (Canada), Noble Okello (Canada)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

Toronto - None

Stats

Sporting KC

GOALS - Krisztian Nemeth, Johnny Russell (7), Felipe Gutierrez (4), Gianluca Busio (3), Ilie Sanchez, Yohan Croizet (1)

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

Toronto

GOALS - Alejandro Pozuelo, Jozy Altidore (5), Jonathan Osorio, Jordan Hamilton (3), Nick Deleon, Jay Chapman, Michael Bradley (2), two more with (1)

ASSISTS - Pozuelo (6), Osorio (4), Altidore, DeLeon (3), four with (2), three with (1)

Starting XI Predictions

Before you read my take, check out our newest writer Stacy Fulk’s thoughts on who should play on Friday for SKC. Let’s break it down position by position.

First, two of the three forwards are gone for international duty and the other starter is hurt. Nemeth is with Hungary and Russell is with Scotland. It seems likely based on recent performances that Yohan Croizet will replace Nemeth. He struggled on two days rest against the LA Galaxy but he played fantastic against Seattle and obviously he had a delightful goal against the Houston Dynamo (even if it was from the wing).

As for the winger spots, Daniel Salloi, despite being very out of form, probably has to start just to get healthy bodies on the field. The only other healthy player who is a winger by trade is Tyler Freeman, but he hasn’t gotten onto the field yet and I don’t expect that to happen on Friday. The other spot will probably be Kelyn Rowe who is the new Croizet playing all over the freaking field. Rowe has looked better each time out and he is a hard worker, which Peter Vermes values.

A dark horse on the wing is Gerso Fernandes who is four weeks out from his wrist surgery, which is right in his window to return. If he does, he probably doesn’t have 90 minutes fitness but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him come on for 20-30 minutes. Per The Blue Testament’s Thad Bell, the team is running a test this week to see if Gerso could safely take contact.

The midfield probably returns to Benny Feilhaber, Felipe Gutierrez and Ilie Sanchez. That makes sense with Gianluca Busio available as the first option off the bench.

At right back Hasler is out of the country so Graham Zusi gets his job back by default. He has looked pretty poor in 2019 but it’s a chance for him to redeem himself. At the other fullback spot, Jimmy Medranda is getting closer and closer to full fitness and when he does he could steal that job from Seth Sinovic (stop me if you’ve heard this before). Sinovic may be needed for his defense with the other defending issues.

Those issues are ‘who plays center back?’ Barath is away on international duty. Matt Besler wasn’t even in the 18 against Toronto as he “felt uncomfortable” before the Houston game. In that same game Graham Smith left the game with cramping. Andreu Fontas replaced him after playing 90 minutes (unexpectedly) against the Galaxy. He missed the four games before that. It’s very unclear who will be healthy enough to play.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Besler, Medranda, Gerso, Busio, Zelalem, [empty]

Pretty consistently Vermes hasn’t brought Kuzain or Freeman when they are healthy. I’m not even sure he’ll bring Gedion Zelalem. It kind of makes sense not to fill out your 18 when you know you won’t play them and they can get valuable minutes with the Swope Park Rangers.

Fan Starting XI

The fan vote is aligned with mine outside of you all thinking Matt Besler will be back (let’s cross our fingers). Here are the players who got the most votes that aren’t starters: Medranda [fullback] (28.8%), Smith (23.1%), Medranda [wing] (23.1%), Croizet [wing] (17.3%), Salloi [CF] (17.3%), Busio [mid] (11.5%) and Busio [wing and CF] (7.7%).

Prediction

Sporting Kansas City can win this game. They are rounding into form but suddenly the question is, who scores the goals? Salloi is the 2018 SKC golden boot winner. He has exactly zero goals in 2019. If Rowe starts on the other wing, he has zero goals. Feilhaber, zero goals. Croizet picked up his first goal last weekend. Gutierrez has four goals, but he’s missed some sitters the last few weeks. If they score, it could be enough.

Toronto haven’t won a game since May (the) 4th (be with you). They are 0-4-2 in their last six. They are missing Bradley, Altidore and Osorio. Possibly their best player is Pozuelo, but he’s going to need help. Until SKC prove to me otherwise, I can’t pick them to win games, especially with all the missing players still.

0-0 Draw

What do you think? Predictions in the comments 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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