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Five Observations from Sporting KC vs. Chicago Fire

Salloi, Croizet, Fontas, Zelalem and more.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Sporting Kansas City Peter G. Aiken

Sporting Kansas City pulled off a big win at home against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night and have pulled themselves out of the basement of the MLS Western Conference. Sporting KC have actually, at least for the moment, rocketed up to 9th from 12th.

Besides just the win, there were lots of other things to notice from Saturday’s game. Let’s get started.

Sporting KC Had Their Third Clean Sheet

It’s crazy that it’s 19 games into the season and SKC have just finally recorded their third clean sheet of the MLS season. Their last two wins, though both not beautiful, have resulted in clean sheets. Interestingly the same back four have played in each of those games. That’s Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Botond Barath and Graham Zusi.

Despite the good results there is a bit of an asterisk on this game as well as the game against the Columbus Crew SC. The Crew were missing Gyasi Zardes, Will Trapp and Federico Higuain. Chicago were also missing players and were playing on two days rest (though to be fair so were SKC). Regardless, this may be the back four going forward for a bit.

Where is Andreu Fontas?

When Botond Barath returned from injury some assumed he’d get back into the starting lineup. What I’m not sure anyone saw was Fontas being taken out of the 18 and being replaced by Graham Smith as the backup center back.

There are a few possible explanations for this. Injury, he’s out of favor or he’s being sold. Fontas wasn’t listed on the injury report, so it would seem that could be ruled out (though neither was Russell when he was a late scratch a few weeks ago). It’s very possible he’s out of favor because he’s been inconsistent for much of the season.

The final possibility is that he’s being sold. The secondary transfer window is about to open and many of the leagues around the world could buy him at any time as their windows are already open. Fontas hasn’t lived up to his $1 million plus contract and if he were sold the team would definitely need to add at least one more center back. (I want to make clear I have no inside information and I’m just speculating.)

Is Gedion Zelalem a Starter?

On Saturday Zelalem got his third start of the season after joining the team just after the beginning of the 2019 season. His first start was against FC Cincinnati when the full squad was rotated. But the last two starts came when Benny Feilhaber, the presumed started while Roger Espinoza is injured, was healthy and available.

Neither the start against Real Salt Lake or last nights start against the Chicago Fire were mind blowing but he also didn’t make a lot of mistakes. I imagine he’ll continue to split time with Feilhaber for now (and maybe Gianluca Busio). This could be Peter Vermes trying to see what he has for the future or potentially he could be trying to raise Zelalem’s value to sell him. With the news that Gedion will get a sizable raise in 2020, at the very least PV needs to see what he has in him.

Is Yohan Croizet a Striker?

Croizet has rotated from midfield to the wing to left back and center forward. It’s hard to make any position your own when you rotate so much. But for two straight games he’s played at center forward and for two straight games he’s scored a goal. This one came from a beautiful Felipe Gutierrez through ball and Croizet’s finish nicked the keepers boot but still found the back of the net.

I’m not sure Yohan is a striker and he honestly plays the position as a false nine and at times he was deeper in the midfield than all the midfielders. But he provides a nice change of pace in the attack and provides defenses a different look. If nothing it gives defenses something different to prepare for and maybe it pushes Krisztian Nemeth to be his best self knowing he isn’t the guaranteed starter week in and week out.

Daniel Salloi is Getting Close

Salloi has had a tough season. Still zero goals after leading the team in scoring in 2018. He had two really nice chances in the game. One in which the ball was saved off the line by Francisco Calvo and another that was an audacious volley attempt that went just wide. Sure he’s in a slump, but it seems like he’s going to score.

I’d advocate for loaning him to the Swope Park Rangers for a game or two to restore his confidence. If Russell and Gerso are healthy, they are likely to get all the minutes based on form. This is where not having more forward hurts SKC’s ability to loan Salloi away. I’d be okay with Busio or Kelyn Rowe playing on the wing a little bit if it means Salloi got 90 minutes (and some confidence) from playing in the USL Championship. However, I’m not sure he’ll get loaned down despite his need for it.