Sporting Kansas City will be playing for the fourth time in 11 days and they have to deal with the sweltering heat and horrific time wasting of FC Dallas. Should be fun.
Here is my unofficial injury report (since there is no longer a questionable designation) added to the confirmed OUTs from Sporting KC’s official report.
OUT - Felipe Gutierrez (knee surgery), Graham Zusi (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE - Matt Besler (hamstring), Khiry Shelton (hip)
Starting XI Predictions
Okay, so we know the injury situation, who starts?
Hurtado has to Start, Right?!
Not that you should, but put aside the world class goal that Erik Hurtado scored against Nashville SC. Khiry Shelton went down with some sort of injury (we’re going with hip based on Nate Bukaty’s reaction on the broadcast) just three days ago. That only leave Gadi Kinda as a possible alternative that we’ve actually seen in 2020 at the striker spot (with Alan Pulido still away on international duty). Kinda hasn’t scored since August 25th and he’s yet to score in his limited striker minutes.
Hurtado on the other hand has three goals in just 153 minutes in 2020. That’s 1.76 goals per 90 minutes played (with an admittedly tiny sample size). I’m not saying Hurtado will score if he starts (though he did in his lone 2020 start), but I am saying the man has earned some minutes. Rotation is key and even if Shelton is fine, he probably deserves a rest. Not to mention he has lost his early season form and fatigue has to play a part in that.
Busio or Ilie?
This question feels like it won’t go away anytime soon. Last game, both Busio and Ilie started in the midfield, with Busio in the more advanced role. I’d suspect Roger Espinoza is likely to start at least every other game so that makes him due. Do you push Kinda to the bench for a late game burst or do you slide Busio back to the holding midfield spot and give Ilie a rest?
I personally think Busio has done enough to win the starting job, but it’s hard to see Peter Vermes making a change when the team has won three straight. I’m going to guess, since Busio subbed off against Nashville, he’ll start and Kinda will be available off the bench, so Ilie keeps his starting role for one more game. If he picks up a yellow card, he’ll be suspended next match, which would force rotation and yet again leave this question somewhat unanswered.
Luis Martins returned from injury late in the Nashville game. He wasn’t under much pressure as Nashville were down a man and Sporting effectively closed out the game with mostly dominant possession in the final minutes. I’d guess we’ll see more of him soon, but he’s definitely not ready to go 90 minutes and Amadou Dia has been a beast. I’d guess we’ll see more of Dia and Jaylin Lindsey tonight.
Do You Rotate Center Backs?
Eventually you have to, right? Sporting have run out Winston Reid and Roberto Puncec the last three matches. However, you can’t play them in every game, especially as the two games this week come with just two days rest instead of what has become the usual three. Puncec was definitely the shakier CB on Sunday, so if PV wants to not do wholesale changes, maybe he finds the bench. I’d guess Graham Smith would make a better pairing with Reid than a slower Andreu Fontas or Matt Besler (who also wasn’t even on the bench yet last game as he returns from injury). If Reid doesn’t rest today, he definitely needs to Saturday.
Since you can’t take off all your offensive firepower with Pulido gone, I bet Russell starts at least one more game before getting any sort of rest. As for who starts next to him? I think we could see Daniel Salloi or Gerso Fernandes. I like Salloi with Shelton so if Shelton comes on, bring Salloi on too. But Gerso worked well with Russell last game and with Hurtado making the runs Gerso’s endless crosses to no one may actually find a target in the box against Dallas.
Something else to be on the lookout for is Tyler Freeman. With Sporting KC II’s season over, there is no reason he can’t make his first team debut in the late minutes of a game. If you missed Freeman with SKC II, here is a quick highlight video from his 2020 season with some Beastie Boys music in the background instead of some awful EDM.
Rest of the 20: John Pulskamp, Andreu Fontas, Roberto Puncec, Cameron Duke, Khiry Shelton, Tyler Freeman, Felipe Hernandez, Daniel Salloi, Gadi Kinda
You guys were a bit more divided this week as the need for rotation no doubt is creeping into your minds. Today will be four games in 11 days and Saturday will be five in 14 days. Wild. As for your lineups, Hurtado ran away with the CF vote. I wonder why?
No rotation on your backline, though Smith and Martins creeped up the voting. Same in the midfield, though Espinoza did draw over 50% of the vote despite not being a starter so there is some real debate as to who the announced lineup will be today.
Here is your lineup and full vote tallies by category (with the starters in italics):
Goalkeepers: Melia (100%)
Defenders: Lindsey (88.9%), Dia (68.3%), Puncec (63.5%), Reid (55.6%), Smith (44.4%), Martins (28.6%), Fontas (19.0%), Besler (15.9%), Zusi (4.8%)
Midfielders: Ilie (77.8%), Kinda (69.8%), Busio (65.1%), Espinoza (50.8%), Hernandez (30.2%), Duke/Kuzain (3.2%)
Wingers: Gerso (74.6%), Russell (55.6%), Salloi (42.9%), Shelton (22.2%), Busio (4.8%), Freeman (1.6%)
Strikers: Hurtado (85.7%), Shelton (11.1%), Busio/Russell (1.6%)