Sporting KC @ New York City FC (#NYCvSKC)
When: Friday, July 26, 2019 at 6:30 PM CT
Where: Yankee Stadium
How to Watch/Stream: Fox Sports Kansas City Plus | Fox Sports Midwest Plus | Fox Sports Go | ESPN+
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM
Sporting Kansas City’s playoff hopes took a big hit last weekend with a home loss to FC Dallas who held the final playoff spot in the West at the time of the match-up. FiveThirtyEight.com gives Sporting KC just a 26% chance of making the playoffs. Their opponent on Friday is NYCFC who currently hold a 98% chance of getting into the playoffs. New York City don’t need to win, but Sporting KC really need a result on the road.
That challenge will be made tougher by the fact that SKC will be without their leading goal scorer Felipe Gutierrez who is suspended due to yellow card accumulation. On the other hand, something possibly cushioning that loss is the return of Roger Espinoza who put in about 30 minutes this last weekend and immediately looked like his old self.
NYC are having quite the season, which just adds to the problems SKC are likely to experience. The one shining light is that New York are in a bit of a slump as they lost two straight before eeking out a victory over the cellar dwelling Colorado Rapids who were winning before seeing an early red card. But prior to the last three games NYC had won three straight and had gone 12 games without a loss (7-0-5).
- This marks just the fifth all-time meeting between these clubs. SKC won the first two and NYC have won the two most recent games including last years SKC home and season opener.
- New York are 2nd best in the league goals allowed behind only LAFC. NYC have allowed 23 goals through 19 games.
- NYC are 4-1-4 at home with their only lost this season coming against the red hot Portland Timbers who snuck out with a 1-0 win.
What’s changed for NYCFC since 2018?
The biggest subtraction for NYCFC is likely Spanish superstar David Villa. He had led the attack for most of the franchise’s existence before leaving the club in the offseason. His replacement wasn’t found immediately but most recently Heber from HNK Rijeka (Croatia) and Alexandru Mitrita from Universitatea Craiova (Romania) have started to pick up some of his lost production.
Other notable departures include forward Jo Inge Berget who never quite panned out, midfielder Yangel Herrera and winger Jonathan Lewis who was traded to the Colorado Rapids at the close of the primary transfer window.
Less notable, but Sporting KC related subtractions, are former fullback Saad Abdul-Salaam who came to NYC in the Khiry Shelton trade and Rodney Wallace who signed with Sporting in the offseason but played a meager 27 minutes in MLS before being injured on the turf in Cincinnati.
QUESTIONABLE - None
*This story has been updated with the official injury report.
OUT - Joe Scally (hip injury), Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (ankle injury)
QUESTIONABLE - None
Sporting KC - Felipe Gutierrez [yellow card accumulation] (Benny Feilhaber & Yohan Croizet suspended next yellow card)
NYCFC - None (Maxi Moralez, Taty Castellanos and Ben Sweat are suspended next yellow card)
GOALS - Felipe Gutierrez (8), Krisztian Nemeth, Johnny Russell (7), Gianluca Busio, Yohan Croizet (3), Ilie Sanchez, Gerso (1)
ASSISTS - Johnny Russell, Gerso Fernandes, Ilie Sanchez (4), Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, Yohan Croizet, Kelyn Rowe, Felipe Gutierrez, Krisztian Nemeth (2), Benny Feilhaber, Nicolas Hasler (1)
GOALS - Heber (8), Maxi Moralez (6), Valentin Castellanos, Alexandru Mitrita (5), Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (4), Alex Ring, Ebenezer Ofori (2), Jesus Medina (1)
ASSISTS - Moralez (13), Anton Tinnerholm (4), Heber, Castellanos (3), Tajouri-Shradi, Ring (2), five with one
Starting XI Predictions
The first question that needs to be answered is who replaces the suspended Gutierrez? The most likely candidate would appear to be Roger Espinoza who returned against FC Dallas and was one of the few bright spots in that game. That, coupled with the return of Ilie Sanchez from yellow card suspension, should lead to a more stable midfield. Gedion Zelalem has started three straight games but something about putting Benny Feilhaber back on the field with Roger just sounds good. Especially when the midfield has to find a way to shutdown assist king Moralez.
I imagine the backline stays the same as they mostly performed okay. Matt Besler probably had one of his worst games of the season but Andreu Fontas is definitely not starting over him. Though it might be intriguing to start Fontas on the small field of Yankee Stadium to see if his precise passing can pick apart New York’s stellar defense. I doubt it happens as Barath has been very solid in the back.
Up front Gerso and Russell underperformed against Dallas, Russell more so than anyone. That said, I’d still expect them to start but to have Daniel Salloi ready to step in as needed.
At center forward the Yohan Croizet experiment seems to have gone on long enough. He was out of position several times against FCD and probably should have had a goal (or two) had he made the proper run. Krisztian Nemeth is more likely to be in position but then again his defensive workrate has been subpar. Still, the Croizet hot streak is over, so I’d go with Nemeth.
Tactically, with the probable return of Espinoza, I’d like to see the three back SKC sometimes shows shift right and allow Zusi to push forward instead of the offensively inept Seth Sinovic. It simply doesn’t make sense to send Seth bombing forward. Espinoza knows how to cover for Zusi’s space and if there are three in the back, Besler should be in the middle as he’s the best at reading the field (even if he’s made some uncharacteristically bad passes this year).
Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Fontas, Medranda, Salloi, Croizet, Busio, Zelalem
The bench is worth watching with SPR playing Saturday at home. The team likely will fly home right after the game (or first thing in the morning) and any unused players (or players outside the 18) could be starting Saturday for Swope.
Fan Starting XI
The fan vote was again 100% aligned with my lineup. I’m surprised people didn’t say Zelalem over Feilhaber (though it was close) since he’s started a lot lately. Same for Croizet over Nemeth. Maybe we are all wrong. Here are the non-starters with the most votes: Zelalem (39%), Croizet [CF] (27.1%), Medranda (25.4%), Busio (20.3%) and Hasler (16.9%).
Realistically, there is no reason to suspect that Sporting KC will find a way to win. NYCFC are a good team. SKC haven’t shown that they are except against subpar competition. And it’s a road game in a place that SKC have struggled. The field is small which doesn’t play to their possession style. One mistake and New York are immediately headed in on goal. It will be interesting to see if Vermes makes tactical changes to account for the small field as their lone win their came on a long throw which is something SKC rarely employ anymore.
The only way I see it working is a magical shift from Espinoza to fire up the whole squad. If he plays out of his mind and someone finds their scoring boots, there may just be a chance.
2-1 NYCFC Win
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 (or right).
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