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Sporting KC v Colorado Rapids: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI, Stats, Injuries

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Four games to go. Send in the kids!

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Colorado Rapids (#SKCvCOL)

When: Saturday, September 21st, 2019 at 7:30 PM CT

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

How to Watch/Stream: Fox Sporting KC Plus | ESPN+
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM

Sporting Kansas City are down to just four games left in the 2019 MLS season. They are technically still alive for the playoffs, but realistically, they’ve been out of it for the last month or so and the back-to-back losses to the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy just drive the nails further into their proverbial coffin.

All that being said, these might be the last four games we see Sporting KC play until well into 2020. With the new, longer offseason and the potential work stoppage coming as the CBA expires, SKC will have their longest offseason in years (and maybe ever). So enjoy it as much as you can.

Coming to town are the surging Colorado Rapids. They lost last week to Toronto FC, but they had three straight wins before that, all over playoff teams (Seattle Sounders, New York Red Bulls and the LA Galaxy). They are only a single point behind Sporting KC in the standings and they are technically alive for that final playoff spot as well. Both teams essentially need to run the table to have a chance and that starts Saturday.

Interesting Stats

  • Sporting hold a slight edge in the all-time series (25-24-14).
  • SKC are much more dominant at home though with a 20-5-5 record.
  • In recent matches, Colorado has gotten the best of Sporting. In their last seven SKC are just 1-4-2 against the Rapids (in all competitions), though the lone win came at home. That win was in 2017 and it included a Seth Sinovic goal.

What’s changed for the Rapids since these clubs met last?

These two teams met at the beginning of the season way back in Week 3. The Rapids tied SKC on a Tim Melia mistake that was poked in by Diego Rubio, the former SKC striker. Since that time the Rapids have gone through two coaches and have settled on Robin Fraser, who is a former teammate of Peter Vermes. Since the team fired Anthony Hudson, they went from being the worst team in the league to looking downright decent at times.

In addition to the coaching change they’ve made several additions. They added United States National Team member Jonathan Lewis in a trade with New York City FC. They acquired CB Lalas Abubakar on loan from the Columbus Crew SC. And they traded for CB Abdul Rwatubyaye from SKC, though he’s mostly been on loan in the USL Championship.

In the Rwatubyaye trade the Rapids jettisoned Benny Feilhaber. They also mutually parted ways with midfielder Nana Boateng and loaned midfielder Johan Blomberg to GIF Sundsvall (Sweden).

For all the other transactions from the offseason, check out our initial preview.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT - Rodney Wallace (hip injury), Adrian Zendejas (back), Andreu Fontas (Achilles), Benny Feilhaber (quad strain)

QUESTIONABLE - None

*Updated on 9/20 with Thad’s Tweet below.

Rapids

OUT - Kortne Ford (knee surgery), Deklan Wynne (foot injury), Kofi Opare (groin), Dillon Serna (throat surgery)

QUESTIONABLE - None

PROBABLE - Tim Howard (hamstring injury)

*Updated 9/21 to reflect Opare and Serna being out and Howard coming off the Rapids’ injury report.

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None (Roger Espinoza & Gerso suspended next yellow card)

Rapids - None (Kei Kamara suspended next yellow card)

Stats

Sporting KC

GOALS - Felipe Gutierrez (12), Johnny Russell (9), Krisztian Nemeth (7), Gianluca Busio, Yohan Croizet (3), Erik Hurtado, Ilie Sanchez, Benny Feilhaber (2), Gerso, Graham Smith (1)

ASSISTS - Johnny Russell (7), Gerso Fernandes (6), Ilie Sanchez (5), Felipe Gutierrez (3), Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, Yohan Croizet, Kelyn Rowe, Krisztian Nemeth, Benny Feilhaber (2), Nicolas Hasler, Seth Sinovic, Gianluca Busio, Graham Smith, Jimmy Medranda, Daniel Salloi (1)

*Busio got his first assist of the season on the late goal against the Galaxy last week.

Rapids

GOALS - Kei Kamara (11), Diego Rubio (9), Andre Shinyashiki (7), Jonathan Lewis (5), Nicolas Mezquida (4), six with two, two with one

*How good would those nine Rubio goals look on SKC?!?

ASSISTS - Jack Price (9), Mezquida (5), Sam Nicholson, Rubio (4), Lewis, Keegan Rosenberry (3), four with two, four with one

Starting XI Predictions

With the season not being fully over, I imagine Vermes will trot out mostly the same lineup. I imagine someone needs to be punished for the seven goals the team allowed last week, but I don’t expect wholesale changes. Maybe Botond Barath for Graham Smith. Maybe Ilie finds the bench with Gutierrez sliding back into the defensive midfielder role.

But instead of trying to get the lineup right, I’m going to say what I would try this week. It won’t be a full youth injection, but it’ll step in that direction. No point in sending all the teenagers out to get embarrassed.

Let’s go line by line. Up top, Nemeth is as good as gone, so keep playing Hurtado. He was just shy on a couple attempts but he gets into positions I’m not sure Nemeth would find. Now, he didn’t finish those chances (and Nemeth may just have done it) but Hurtado is likely on the team next year. I’d pair him with Gerso and Russell, but I’m fine with Salloi starting over either of them in the hopes he finally scores a freaking goal. If Salloi isn’t going to play, send him to SPR to get his confidence back.

In the midfield I’d really switch it up. I suspect Ilie won’t play, but I’m fine with either him or Gutierrez playing the holding midfielder role. But in front of whoever plays the #6 I’d start Gianluca Busio and Felipe Hernandez. Hernandez reminds me a lot of Roger Espinoza and I’d love to see if he can start to boss the midfield in MLS like he does in USL. I’m honestly more sure about starting him than Busio.

In defense, like it or not, Luis Martins is going to be the starting left back in 2020. Let’s keep him out there to continue to learn the system (though if Vermes wants to play Sinovic or Medranda, that’s fine, but I’d save Medranda as an attacking or midfield sub so Salloi can go to SPR).

At CB, and don’t burn me alive, I’d bench both Besler and Smith. They had a rough outing and Matt needs rest. I’d start Andreu Fontas at his natural left center back spot and Barath next to him. Fontas is under contract through 2022. The team may be stuck with him. Might as well figure out if they need him and Besler, who are both signed through next season.

At right back, it’s time to rest Zusi and give Jaylin Lindsey the start. He’s the right back of the future and he’s played will for Swope Park over the last few weeks.

At goalkeeper, Melia gives you the best chance to win. Neither backup has played particularly well in USL this year. This lineup both gives the team a chance to win and to see what the future holds at a few spots. Do it Pete!

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Besler, Medranda, Nemeth, Zusi, Espinoza, Ilie

Fan Starting XI

The fan vote was predictably all over the place. Despite that, the lineup wasn’t too dissimilar to mine. You guys have Besler over Fontas (shocker). In the midfield you have Ilie still starting with Hernandez nowhere in site (he wasn’t in our poll, which is an oversight by us that I’ve fixed). And the rest was the same.

That said, the vote totals are wacky and I’ll highlight the non-starters with the most votes: Nemeth (31.7%), Espinoza (31.7%), Smith (30%), Salloi [wing] (26.7%), Zelalem (25%), Zusi (25%), Medranda [wing] (23.3%), Kuzain (21.7%), Medranda [mid] (20%), Sinovic (18.3%), Zendejas (18.3%) and Hasler (15%).

Overall it was the closest poll in a long time and it seems to support that you guys want to try some different stuff in the remaining four games.

Prediction

This part of the story is futile. Sporting should win. But after that collapse last week, who really knows. If they don’t lose or draw, but give good minutes to some youth, I’ll be happy. If they win and do the same thing, even more so. That said, I always want a win and SKC have them in bunches at home against the Rapids.

Fun fact, the first home game I ever went to was a victory over Colorado. But don’t worry, I’ll stay away. I’ve been to five road games in the last two season and SKC are 1-4-0 with four straight losses (Seattle, LAFC, San Jose and the Galaxy). Sorry about that.

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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