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Sporting KC v Chicago Fire: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI, Stats, Injuries

Can SKC repeat last year’s wild game against Chicago and find a win?

MLS: Sporting KC at Chicago Fire Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Chicago Fire (#SKCvCHI)

When: Saturday, July 6, 2019 at 7:30 PM CT

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

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

Remember this game last year? It was bananas. A 4-3 thriller where both teams forgot to play defense. Felipe Gutierrez had his coming out party. Sporting Kansas City ultimately figured out how to defend in 2018 but they haven’t yet in 2019. They were one of the best scoring teams in the league but they’ve misplaced their scoring boots over the last few of games and have fallen to a tie for ninth in scoring. If they aren’t going to defend, they sure need to score.

One possible way to boost their scoring is the return of Johnny Russell. Russell scored against Chicago last year. He, along with Jimmy Medranda, should both be available on Saturday according to reports earlier in the week. Medranda actually scored against Chicago last year as well (and may have allowed a goal or two).

Sporting KC are facing a Chicago Fire team that is coming off a 5-1 dismantling of defending MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United. On the other side Sporting were beaten 5-1 by the potential future 2019 MLS Cup Champions, Los Angeles Football Club.

That win by Chicago is a little misleading though. Atlanta didn’t play all their starters. And that win was out of character for Chicago. Before that win they were 0-3-3 in their prior six. In addition, Chicago have yet to win a road game all season. They are 0-6-3 on the road. If they win in Kansas City that might be the final straw for KC.

Interesting Stats

  • Sporting KC are unbeaten in their last six meetings against Chicago in Kansas City (4-0-2).
  • Over the last two league meetings these two teams have combined for 12.
  • SKC have lost to the Chicago Fire 26 times. That’s more times than SKC have lost to any other opponent.

For more stats, be sure to check out By the Numbers from the team’s official site.

What’s Changed for Chicago Since 2018?

Since the end of the 2018 season Chicago have added 13 players and lost 13 players. One shock loss was the retirement of fullback Brandon Vincent who is still just 25-years-old.

They’ve lost quite a few other attacking names like Yura Movsisyan, Michael de Leeuw, Alan Gordon and Luis Solignac. They’ve also lost noteable defenders Jonathan Campbell (Seattle Sounders), Christian Dean (retired) and Matt Polster (Rangers in Scotland).

There are quite a few connections to Sporting KC in their additions/subtractions as well. The Fire cut Nicolas Hasler earlier in 2019 and he’s since joined SKC and has started several games. Chicago released Daniel Johnson who was on trial with Sporting in the preseason before ultimately ending up in the USL Championship. Perhaps the biggest name though is CJ Sapong who was traded from the Philadelphia Union and is actually Chicago’s leading scorer.

In addition to Sapong, the Fire added midfielder Nicolas Gaitan who has been integral and leads the club in assists. Other key additions are Przemyslaw Frankowski via transfer from Jagiellonia Bialystok, David Ousted, Fabian Herbers and finally fullback Francisco Calvo via trade with Minnesota United.

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 - Graham Zusi (abductor strain), Jimmy Medranda (hamstring), Johnny Russell (leg)

*This story has been updated with the official injury report. Barath is removed, the rest stays the same for SKC.

Chicago

OUT - Jorge Corrales (thigh)

QUESTIONABLE - Johan Kappelhof (thigh injury)

International Duty

Sporting KC - None

Chicago - Djordje Mihalovic (United States)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

Chicago - None (Francisco Calvo & Bastian Schweinsteiger suspended next yellow card)

Stats

Sporting KC

GOALS - Krisztian Nemeth, Johnny Russell, Felipe Gutierrez (7), Gianluca Busio (3), Yohan Croizet (2), Ilie Sanchez (1)

ASSISTS - Ilie Sanchez (4), Johnny Russell, Gerso Fernandes (3), Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, Yohan Croizet, Kelyn Rowe (2), Felipe Gutierrez, Krisztian Nemeth, Nicolas Hasler (1)

Chicago

GOALS - CJ Sapong (8), Nemanja Nikolic (6), Aleksander Katai (4), Nicolas Gaitan (3), Francisco Calvo, Fabian Herbers, Djordje Mihalovic (2), three with one

ASSISTS - Gaitan (8), Przemyslaw Frankowski, Katai (4), Dax McCarty (3), Sapong, Bastian Schweinsteiger (2), five with one

Starting XI Predictions

Two days rest. That’s all SKC are going to get between their games with LAFC and Chicago. Fortunately Chicago is in the same situation, except they have to travel. Combine the short rest with the eight players who were on the injury report going into Wednesday and you immediately see the conundrum SKC seem to constantly find themselves in this season. They should rotate the squad, but they simply don’t have enough healthy, rested bodies to fully do so.

Let’s start with the players that I suspect will play no matter what: Tim Melia, Ilie Sanchez. That’s it. Now, realistically, there won’t be nine players rotated, but let’s break it down by position.

If Medranda is healthy, I could see him getting the start, though you’d almost have to expect a planned sub for fitness. Typically Matt Besler would be a sure-fire starter but he’s just a few games into a recovery from injury. One of those games he had to come off for a pre-planned sub. If he’s capable of starting, the team is better with him out there. If not Besler, then I imagine it’s Andreu Fontas and Botond Barath that will start.

At right back Nico Hasler had a poor performance against LAFC, so if Zusi’s abductor injury is better, he could take back his starting job. Muscle injuries are tough though and the risk of aggravating an injury isn’t really worth it.

Outside of Ilie, I could see Gutierrez starting again in the midfield. However, midfield is the deepest position on the team. Peter Vermes could realistically play all new starters with players like Kuzain, Zelalem, Croizet, Busio and Rowe all available. Rowe hasn’t seen the field since June 7th against Toronto FC. I doubt he finds the field even though all preseason all he and PV talked about was he’s a natural midfielder. Croizet may be needed in attack so it seems like a perfect opening for Busio or at least the chance to let him get significant minutes as a sub.

On the wings I expect the return of Johnny Russell. Since Daniel Salloi is in the slump of all slumps it seems Gerso would start opposite Johnny. At center forward Nemeth hasn’t played 90 minutes in either game so he could start but Vermes may choose to go with Croizet who scored in limited minutes Wednesday. Croizet, who plays the striker role as a false nine, actually opens up space for Gerso and Russell so it’s not entirely out of the question. If Croizet did start at CF, I’d actually put Salloi next to him as he and Russell are better scorers in that space than Gerso is. Plus, Gerso is a fantastic super-sub.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Besler, Sinovic, Salloi, Croizet, Rowe, Zelalem

Fan Starting XI

The fan vote was on a limited timetable again so there wasn’t much time to vote. In defense you guys had Besler over Fontas but it should be noted “warm body” received one vote. In the midfield you guys have Feilhaber over Busio and the rest aligns with mine.

Here are the players to receive the most votes who aren’t starters: Zusi (42.1%), Sinovic (42.1%), Fontas (31.6%), Busio (31.6%), Zelalem (31.6%), Croizet [CF] (26.3%), Salloi (26.3%), Smith (26.3%), Kuzain (21.1%) and Zendejas (15.8%)

Prediction

Two straight losses. Those came after Sporting finally found a way to win a game against the Columbus Crew SC. Well if they want to turn their season around, even if it’s on short rest and it’s the third game in eight days, Chicago is a team that they need to beat. Sporting KC are just 3-3-3 at home this year. In 2018 they only lost twice at home and they won 10 times. They have just eight more home games. They can’t afford to lose (or even draw) in this one.

Besides the meltdown at the end against LAFC, they showed real promise. They created really good chances but somehow balls just kept not going in. They actually had a better xG (expected goals) number which shows how good LAFC is and how SKC have struggled so badly on offense.

3-2 Sporting KC 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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