Sporting KC @ Orlando City (#ORLvSKC)
When: Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 at 6:30 PM CT
Where: Exploria 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
There are just 10 games to go in the Major League Soccer season. Wednesday will find two teams trying to claw their way into playoff contention. Orlando sit in 9th place on a 8-11-6 record with 30 points through 25 games and just three points out of a playoff spot.
Sporting KC on the other hand play in the tougher Western Conference and are currently eight points out of a playoff spot despite having 28 points through 24 games which is a slightly better PPG average (7-10-7). They’ve dropped crucial points to Real Salt Lake (twice) and FC Dallas in recent weeks. Those are the 6th and 7th place teams respectively.
The season feels over for Sporting KC, but not for head coach Peter Vermes. During a contentious press conference after SKC lost 2-1 to RSL over the weekend, he was emphatic that the team was not giving up. “I’m not giving up,” Vermes started. “What’s there to give up? I’m not giving up!” With 10 games to go, SKC could actually get 30 points if they won all the games (don’t hurt yourself laughing). That is more points than they’ve gotten in the first 24 games combined. It won’t happen, but technically it is possible.
Wednesday mark the second time Sporting KC will see their former striker, Dom Dwyer, in an Orlando uniform since he was traded away in the summer of 2017. Their previous meeting was at Children’s Mercy Park last September when Felipe Gutierrez scored the game winner in a 1-0 home win.
Dwyer has seen his minutes dwindle in 2019. He’s dealt with injuries and poor form and has only played 1,041 minutes over 19 appearances (nine starts). Despite some big misses on trades in late 2018 and 2019, Sporting Kansas City clearly won the trade over OCSC back in 2017.
- Sporting KC have never won in Orlando (0-1-1).
- SKC have allowed 11 goals in the last 15 minutes of the game and 10 goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
- On the season SKC have allowed only 14 first half goals but have allowed 29 second half goals.
What’s changed for Orlando City since 2018?
Since the last time these teams met, 19 players have left the OCSC roster (though three of them are just out on loan currently). Most of them are edge of the roster role players outside of Yoshimar Yotun, who looked like a star and was transferred to Cruz Azul (Mexico). Last year, Orlando were basically in the same spot as SKC are this year with a lot of underperforming veterans on deals that run at least through the following season. They are underperforming again this year, which doesn’t bode well for SKC in 2020.
The additions to Orlando have mostly been lackluster outside of star player Nani. Another good contributor, unexpectedly, is Tesho Akindele who arrived via trade from FC Dallas. They also added fullback Danilo Acosta on loan from RSL (though he only has eight starts) and Homegrown Benji Michel who has shown flashes of brilliance.
QUESTIONABLE - Krisztian Nemeth (abdominal), Botond Barath (back), Gerso Fernandes (ankle)
PROBABLE - Andreu Fontas (ego — j/k, but maybe)
*This story will be updated with the official injury report on Wednesday.
OUT - Cristian Higuita (hamstring injury)
QUESTIONABLE - None
Sporting KC - Daniel Salloi [red card]
Orlando - None
GOALS - Felipe Gutierrez (10), Johnny Russell (8), Krisztian Nemeth (7), Gianluca Busio, Yohan Croizet (3), Ilie Sanchez (2), Gerso, Erik Hurtado (1)
ASSISTS - Johnny Russell, Gerso Fernandes (5), Ilie Sanchez (4), Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, Yohan Croizet,
Kelyn Rowe, Felipe Gutierrez, Krisztian Nemeth, Benny Feilhaber (2), Nicolas Hasler, Seth Sinovic (1)
GOALS - Nani, Tesho Akindele (8), Chris Mueller, Dom Dwyer (5), Santiago Patino, Benji Michel (2), three with one
ASSISTS - Nani (8), Mueller, Ruan (4), Dwyer, Joao Moutinho (3), Sacha Kljestan, Akindele (2), seven with one
Starting XI Predictions
Suddenly there is a lack of available forwards. Daniel Salloi is suspended (rightfully so). Gerso picked up what everyone is hoping is a minor injury. Krisztian Nemeth had been out a couple weeks. Kelyn Rowe got traded (even though he’s really a midfielder). Only Johnny Russell and Erik Hurtado are listed as forwards and for sure available (besides Tyler Freeman, who is still probably too green).
Who plays on the other wing? Yohan Croizet has gotten that start in the past but he wasn’t even in the 18 the last two weeks. One week for injury, though he was reportedly a healthy scratch last weekend in favor of having three fullbacks and a center back on the bench. The most interesting option for me is playing Jimmy Medranda on the wing. He’s fast but doesn’t have the gas for 90 minutes. Maybe that speed can look a bit like Gerso.
I imagine Croizet will actually get the minutes but I’d love if Nemeth was healthy enough to at least play some wing (since his CF play has left something to be desired). Another sneaky option I don’t suspect is Gianluca Busio on the wing.
If not for three games in eight days, I’d say the midfield is unchanged. Roger Espinoza can’t play all those games though. Save him for the home game against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday (though that’s the the team he got hurt against several months ago). Gedion Zelalem looked good next to Gutierrez and Ilie previously, so he may start and if offense is needed bring in Busio or maybe Feilhaber. Honestly, pre-suspension, Benny was playing out of his mind for me. That’s probably the better play.
In defense I’d like to see Jaylin Lindsey play over Graham Zusi. He’s looked pretty good with SPR, even if his longest shift is only 90 minutes. Nicolas Hasler could play if Lindsey isn’t ready. Seth Sinovic and Matt Besler have been fine but Andreu Fontas is probably headed to the bench based on Vermes calling him out by name. That should open the door for a Graham Smith start since Barath is still probably not healthy. With all the games coming up, Medranda or Martins are possibilities for Seth too, as he can’t play in all three either, even if his defense has been fairly stout.
I’d argue they should rest guys on Wednesday in an Eastern Conference road game and not in the Western Conference game Saturday. These double game weeks are tough to predict.
Rest of the 18: Dick, Fontas, Zusi, Martins, Busio, Espinoza, Zelalem
Fan Starting XI
The fan vote was way different from my lineup. You guys expected a Barath return at CB (as of this writing, he doesn’t sound healthy). You also kept Seth in at left back. And you barely have Hasler over Zusi at right back (40.6% to 39.1%). You all kept Roger in the midfield over Benny. And at forward your betting on a quick Gerso turnaround from injury (barely over Croizet 39.1% to 36.2%).
Here are the players with the most votes who aren’t starters: Zusi (39.1%), Croizet [wing] (36.2%), Martins (30.4%), Smith (29%), Medranda [wing] (24.6%), Nemeth [CF] (21.6%), Lindsey/Busio/Feilhaber (18.8%), Fontas (15.9%), Medranda [fullback] (14.5%) and Zelalem (13%).
If Sporting KC are going to win, this is the opportunity. Orlando aren’t very good. They’ve won only two of their last eight (2-3-3). KC aren’t very good either though (three wins in their last eight but all the other games are losses — 3-5-0). One good thing for KC is that Orlando aren’t very good at home (better only than SKC, Portland Timbers [only 7 home games], Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Cincinnati). SKC are actually decent on the road too (9th in the league).
Despite some fans wanting SKC to play the kids, Vermes is unlikely to do that until the odds become insurmountable. They aren’t there yet. If Kansas City get hot (and that’s the only way they make the playoffs), they would flying in with a chance since it’s single elimination all the way through. If they fail to win one of the next two games, I’ll concede they have to shut it down. I can’t root for that just yet.
I still can’t pick a win until KC shows me something. If they don’t win this, San Jose are a brutal opponent this year and KC showed they can’t hang with them when they met earlier in the season and honestly started their upward trend in the same game they started KC’s downward trend.
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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