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Sporting KC v Real Salt Lake: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI, Stats, Injuries

KC’s playoff hopes may come down to this.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Real Salt Lake (#SKCvRSL)

When: Saturday, August 10th, 2019 at 7:30 PM CT

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

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 rebounded nicely last weekend with a 3-2 win over their Western Conference foes the Seattle Sounders. They are going to need to find more of that magic if they want to make a late run at the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. This week they’ll have to do it without the suspended Benny Feilhaber.

Sporting had a chance to make up points about five weeks ago when they traveled to Rio Tinto Stadium only to lay an egg in a 2-0 defeat to their bitter rivals. They still find themselves looking up at RSL in the standings who sit in sixth place (10-9-4, 34 points). SKC are back in tenth still (7-9-7, 28 points) and five points behind seventh place FC Dallas.

While Sporting seem to have RSL’s number outside of the regular season (2-0-1 in their last three non-regular season meetings — all of them in 2018) they are an abysmal 1-7-5 since he start of 2014 in league play. The good news is that lone win is from a home match at CMP.

SKC aren’t catching RSL at a good time either. They are 4-1-3 in their last eight games with the only loss coming on the road against the streaking San Jose Earthquakes (that sentence still sounds weird). They have shutout wins in four of those eight games, including against Sporting.

Interesting Stats

  • If RSL win, they’ll be nine points ahead of SKC in the Western Conference standings.
  • Sporting KC have conceded at least two goals in their last three matches.
  • Salt Lake are just 2-7-3 on the road in 2019.

What’s changed for RSL since the first meeting?

Since the last meeting between the clubs, RSL have made just one move. They sent Pablo Ruiz out on loan to Pinzgau Saafelden (Austria). For all the other moves from the 2018 offseason and before the first 2019 meeting, head back to our original preview.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT - Rodney Wallace (hip injury), Cameron Duke (hamstring injury), Adrian Zendejas (back)

QUESTIONABLE - Krisztian Nemeth (abdominal), Botond Barath (back)

PROBABLE - Yohan Croizet (unknown)

*This story has been updated with the official injury report which leave Barath and Nemeth as just questionable, though Thad believes they won’t play.

Salt Lake

OUT - Jordan Allen (knee injury), Tony Beltran (knee injury), Sam Johnson (quad injury)

QUESTIONABLE - None

PROBABLE - Nedum Onuoha (adductor injury)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - Benny Feilhaber [yellow card accumulation]

Salt Lake - Everton Luiz [yellow card accumulation], Mike Petke [for allegedly being a bigot] (Sebastian Saucedo suspended next yellow card)

*I consistently get on to Saucedo for diving — and man does he dive, but last week he took a brutal tackle to the ankle that somehow didn’t lead to a red card.

Stats

Sporting KC

GOALS - Felipe Gutierrez (10), Krisztian Nemeth, Johnny Russell (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)

Salt Lake

GOALS - Albert Rusnak, Sam Johnson (8), Jefferson Savarino (6), Damir Kreilach (4), Sebastian Saucedo, Marcelo Silva (2), three others with one

ASSISTS - Kyle Beckerman, Savarino, Rusnak (4), Kreilach, Aaron Herrera (3), Nick Besler, Saucedo, Everton Luiz, Corey Baird (2), two others with one

Starting XI Predictions

As of this preview, it’s unknown the health status of Krisztian Nemeth and Botond Borath. When I asked The Blue Testament site manager Thad Bell to check, he indicated they missed practice on Tuesday (Croizet and new signing Luis Martins were present though). Initially their injuries were reported to be minor, but it’s unclear exactly how minor.

For Nemeth, there is an easy solution. Start Erik Hurtado again. He looked marvelous in his first start in league play for Sporting and ultimately scored the game winning goal. He is physical, fast and he works hard. It sounds like the perfect Peter Vermes center forward but with maybe a bit of goal scoring ability. No need to rush Nemeth back and if he’s healthy, he can sub on to add late scoring ability (at center forward or on the wing).

As for Barath, that’s more of an issue. If he’s healthy, he should probably play. Andreu Fontas started last week and he found himself being beaten over and over again. He and Gutierrez combined to bungle possession that led to the second Jordan Morris goal. He was beaten for pace several other times as well being bailed out by Tim Melia, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi on different occasions.

[Update: Barath is likely out as of Friday. Personally, I’d start Smith, but my money is on Fontas starting.]

If Barath isn’t healthy, it would be interesting to see if Graham Smith may start over Fontas. Salt Lake are loaded with fast players just waiting to make Fontas pay.

Another position in question is who starts next to Gutierrez in the midfield? Roger Espinoza is scheduled to be back from red card suspension but the MLS Disciplinary Committee haven’t made any announcement if he’ll receive an additional game (though they did make some other moves Wednesday). For now, let’s slot him in and bring the “ideal” midfield back together.

There are still a few other questions. Right back Jaylin Lindsey returned from injury last week and put in a 30 minute shift against Nashville SC as he subbed on for the Swope Park Rangers (weirdly the fourth person to play right back in that game). He’s probably not ready to start yet, but the case could be made Nico Hasler should start over Graham Zusi. Zusi isn’t adding much offensively this year and his defense is lacking. It feels like it could be Lindsey’s job to take when he’s fully fit.

At left back Luis Martins just joined the team and practiced for the first time this week. Jimmy Medranda is also available, though we haven’t seen him since he put in a shift in the midfield for SPR a few weeks ago. It seems like Seth’s job, as always, is safe for now.

Finally that brings us to the wings. Johnny Russell was benched in favor of Daniel Salloi last weekend. I could see this as an effort to keep Russell fresh as he faded hard in the summer of 2018. Also, he’s struggled as of late since returning from his injury. I could see PV continue to rotate until someone gets hot or finds chemistry with Hurtado.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Fontas, Medranda, Salloi, Nemeth, Busio, Croizet, Hasler

The Swope Park Rangers play at 6:00 PM on Saturday as well and their lineup should be out around 5:00 PM. That will give us some clues. If Graham Smith travels with them, then clearly Barath is healthy enough to at least be in the 18.

Other possibilities are players on the edge of the 18 in need of minutes like Zelalem and Busio showing up in that lineup. Kuzain will probably be with SPR too, which won’t tell us much. And as always, the thrilling debate of who gets to sit on the bench behind Tim Melia could be decided by yet another GK loan.

[Update: Put Hasler in the 18 for the likely injured Nemeth based on Thad’s Friday reporting that he was likely to be out.]

Fan Starting XI

The fan vote was identical to mine. Aren’t we all so uncreative? Here are the guys who aren’t starters but accumulated the most votes: Hasler (29.4%), Fontas (23.5%), Medranda (15.3%), Salloi (15.3%), Nemeth (12.9%), Smith (11.8%), Busio (10.6%) and Lindsey (9.4%).

Prediction

This stat says it all:

“Sporting are 1-7-5 their last 13 regular season meetings with RSL since 2014. The lone win during that stretch came by a 3-0 scoreline on April 29, 2017 in Kansas City.”

It’s like RSL was pissed they lost MLS Cup to KC. Now, just because Sporting need to win, doesn’t mean they will. Something going in Sporting KC’s favor is that Sam Johnson, who scored both goals in the last meeting, is out for two months with a quad injury. At this point though, you can’t trust KC until they put something together over a string of multiple games. Time is basically up if that isn’t this game.

2-2 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 (or right).

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