Sporting Kansas City just got Alan Pulido back from nearly a month long injury. No sooner does he return in a substitute role than does he immediately get his first call-up for the Mexican National Team in nearly two years.
Here is my unofficial injury report with the full report coming on Saturday. (Update: The official injury report changed nothing.)
QUESTIONABLE - Richard Sanchez (unknown), Roger Espinoza (world’s worst cramp)
According to the game report for SKC— Thad (@TheBackpost) October 2, 2020
Not Medically Cleared: Defenders Matt Besler and Luis Martins, Mid Felipe Gutierrez
Suspended: Gadi Kinda (yellow accumulation)
Out Michael Salazar - Right knee
Questionable Wilfried Zahibo - Right thigh#SportingKC
Matt Besler had a tweak to his hamstring but is already running in practice and is ahead of schedule to return (no timeline given but doesn't seem super long, esp. with congested schedule). #SportingKC— Shaun Goodwin (@ShaunGoodwinKC) October 2, 2020
Starting XI Predictions
Okay, so we know the injury situation, just one big question mark.
Is Alan Pulido Leaving for International Duty?
The answer is, we don’t know. However, we do know one thing. He’ll be available this weekend.
Statement just released from the Mexican federation on travel plans for the men’s national team indicates that the MLS-based players in Martino’s squad will join in Ámsterdam after weekend matches #eltrieng pic.twitter.com/70qOI0gTAf— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) October 2, 2020
With that said, you’d think with a week and a half off since the last game you’d start him and play him as long as you can before you are potentially without him for a sizable chunk of games.
Is it wrong that I want him to play 89 minutes, get a really minor knock and not travel to play with the Mexican National Team and then pop back into the lineup a week later? I know it is. It did happen once with Roger Espinoza and Honduras were quite mad.
That said, FIFA has tracked back and will allow MLS to block players from leaving. Pulido has made it clear he wants to play for his country, so this situation could get quite tricky.
As far as the other forwards, Johnny Russell is a must start with four goals in the last three games. I think Shelton back to the wings makes sense to keep Gerso as a super sub off the bench. Plus you still have Erik Hurtado available to spell Pulido at CF as needed.
Kinda is Suspended; But Busio is Back
Gadi Kinda will miss this game due to yellow card accumulation, however, Roger Espinoza is no longer listed as “not medically cleared.” If Espinoza is back, there are a lot more midfield options. Especially because Gianluca Busio is also back from suspension.
Do you go with Busio as your #6 and have a combination of Felipe Hernandez and Espinoza as dual destroyers in front of him? I personally think Busio has shown enough to be the regular starter at the six spot. However, I think because of the Kinda suspension, we could see Busio play a more advanced role and see Ilie Sanchez return. That also leaves Hernandez available off the bench to spell a recently recovered (still recovering?) Espinoza.
This Dang Defense
Besler is out, so a new starting lineup is coming. The simplest answer is that Winston Reid steps into his spot and the other three — Roberto Puncec, Amadou Dia and Graham Zusi — remain the same. But I have to say, where the heck is Graham Smith? If you look at the games he played in, several times with Reid in fact, the team defense was mostly solid. I’m not sure if he or Puncec are faster, but I want Graham Smith (if you told me last year I’d be writing that, I’d have laughed at you). That said, I suspect it’ll be Puncec. Either way, if Besler isn’t ready Wednesday, hopefully Vermes has learned his lesson about playing Reid too much and he’ll play every other game with games basically every four days from here out.
I want Jaylin Lindsey to start too, but I’ll just cross my fingers for Wednesday.
Rest of the 20: John Pulskamp, Gerso Fernandes, Jaylin Lindsey, Graham Smith, Andreu Fontas, Erik Hurtado, Cameron Duke, Kuzain, Daniel Salloi
You guys, without the insight of waiting all week like I do, have the exact same lineup as me with the exception of Felipe Hernandez over Roger Espinoza. No word on if he’s back, he’s just not “out.”
Here is your lineup and full vote tallies by category (with the starters in italics):
Goalkeepers: Melia (98.4%), Sanchez (1.6%)
Defenders: Reid (85.9%), Dia (67.2%), Puncec (60.9%), Zusi (56.3%), Smith (45.3%), Lindsey (40.6%), Martins (26.6%), Besler (7.8%), Fontas (1.6%)
Midfielders: Busio (93.8%), Ilie (81.3%), Hernandez (56.3%), Espinoza (43.8%), Duke (12.5%), Zusi (6.3%), Pulido (3.1%) and the suspended Kinda was written in once
Wingers: Russell (95.3%), Shelton (62.5%), Gerso (37.5%), Salloi (3.1%)
Strikers: Pulido (90.6%), Shelton/Hurtado (4.7%)