Sporting Kansas City are taking on Nashville SC for the first time ever. Everyone is dealing with a ton of schedule congestion so let’s get wild with some lineup predictions. But first, injuries.
Here is my unofficial injury report with the full report coming on Sunday.
OUT - Felipe Gutierrez (knee surgery), Graham Zusi (ankle swelling)
QUESTIONABLE - Richard Sanchez (unknown), Luis Martins (unknown), Matt Besler (hamstring)
Starting XI Predictions
Okay, so we know the injury situation, let’s get to it.
No Zusi, No Problem
At least in the short term. This isn’t the way you want to see Jaylin Lindsey getting minutes, but Zusi going down early after a rough tackle against the Chicago Fire has opened the door for a new starter at RB. Peter Vermes indicated in Friday’s press conference that Zusi would be out with an update coming on Monday after the swelling had hopefully gone down. That would seem to indicate Zues won’t be back mid-week either.
Fullback is actually suddenly lacking depth with both “starters” hurt. Luis Martins rejoined training on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean he’s available so I’d suspect we see Lindsey paired with Amadou Dia again. It would be Dia’s fourth straight start and fifth straight appearance since replacing an injured Martins. He may be the starter even when Martins is healthy with his solid play.
Busio or Ilie?
I pose this question again like I did midweek because I don’t think it’s clear cut. Ilie Sanchez has played well, but it seems that Vermes really wanted to get all four of his midfielders on the field, even if that meant playing Gadi Kinda out of position. It didn’t particularly work as SKC weren’t very goal dangerous against Chicago.
g+ GameFlow: MLS Regular Season @SportingKC v @ChicagoFire on 10/07/2020. #SportingKC #cffc #SKCvCHI pic.twitter.com/zCzifJwPCN— GameFlow (@GameFlowxPG) October 8, 2020
However, Roger Espinoza also showed he isn’t ready to play 90 (or even 60) minutes. He may not even be available to start since it’d be his third appearance in eight days. I think the Ilie/Busio debate can go on a bit longer as I suspect it’ll be Kinda and Busio playing the advanced midfield roles (at least to start) with Ilie in the deep lying role. Roger can come on and play destroyed like he did so well against Houston.
Who is the Center Forward Then?
As Kansas City are in the stretch of nine games in 30 days (with many, many games to go), the rotation should be hot and heavy as you can’t run Khiry Shelton and Johnny Russell into the ground. This is a game that KC will especially miss Alan Pulido as I expect Nashville to bunker (they’ve allowed one goal in their last four games) and breaking down the bunker is tough.
Could KC do something funky like putting Daniel Salloi in at striker since he’s probably better with the ball at his feet than Shelton and Hurtado? Possibly. But he’d probably get muscled around. If you are getting extra funky, Busio would be even better at that, but I don’t think you want him as the target up top.
You have to start letting Shelton or Russell rest, so I’ll say this one Hurtado starts with Gerso Fernandes and Russell out wide. I don’t think Hurtado is particularly suited to break down the bunker but I don’t think Shelton is either. Both of them are better at running at the back line so maybe KC can cede some possession and open the game up a bit.
Do You Rotate Center Backs?
I asked this mid-week and I’ll repeat it. I think you must rotate. Maybe it’s a little anecdotal but the last time Winston Reid started three straight games he left in the 40th minute with an injury against the Colorado Rapids. That was also just over a week between the first and third game. Let Reid rest (and maybe even Roberto Puncec too). Matt Besler may not be ready to go so this could be a chance to start Andreu Fontas. Let him earn his $1 million plus salary. I think it’s more likely we’d see Graham Smith with Puncec if there is rotation at all, but I’m going to go way out on a limb and predict Fontas gets a start. See what you have before another season has come and gone.
Rest of the 20: John Pulskamp, Winston Reid, Roberto Puncec, Cameron Duke, Khiry Shelton, Tyler Freeman, Felipe Hernandez, Daniel Salloi, Roger Espinoza
You guys, predictably, don’t agree with my wild predictions at all. I was surprised to see Busio votes so spread out he’s not listed as a starter, though clearly he picked up more than half of all your votes, it just wasn’t at one consistent position. Let’s get to your total votes.
Here is your lineup and full vote tallies by category (with the starters in italics):
Goalkeepers: Melia (96.3%), Pulskamp (3.8%), R. Sanchez (1.3%)
Defenders: Lindsey (93.8%), Dia (88.8%), Puncec (80.0%), Reid (70.0%), Smith (28.7%), Fontas (11.3%), Besler/Martins (10.0%), Zusi (6.3%)
Midfielders: Kinda/Ilie (83.8%), Espinoza (66.3%), Busio (50%), Hernandez (20.0%), Duke (3.8%), Zusi/Kuzain (2.5%)
Wingers: Gerso (77.5%), Russell (70.0%), Salloi (30.0%), Shelton (21.3%), Freeman/Busio (1.3%)
Strikers: Hurtado (48.8%), Shelton (46.3%), Kinda (3.8%), Busio (2.5%)