Here is my unofficial injury report with the full report coming on Wednesday. Expect to just see the three OUT players listed and to hear nothing otherwise, as has been the case since COVID-19 hit.
QUESTIONABLE - Richard Sanchez (unknown), Johnny Russell (knee)
According to game notes:— Thad (@TheBackpost) October 6, 2020
NOT MEDICALLY CLEARED for SKC
• DEF - Matt Besler
• DEF - Luis Martins
• MID - Felipe Gutierrez
NOT MEDICALLY CLEARED for CHI
Luka Stojanovic #SportingKC #SKCvChi
Starting XI Predictions
Okay, so we know the injury situation, so let’s get to the international absence.
Pulido is Gone, Who Steps Up?
As had been rumored, it was officially reported that Alan Pulido will join Mexico for a series of friendlies. Even though those games are over within the next week, Pulido will miss 5-6 games due to having to quarantine when he returns.
Vermes on Pulido: He'll probably miss 5-6 games. We're not happy about it given the fact that they're friendlies. - you can't replace him, he's a special player... #SportingKC— Thad (@TheBackpost) October 6, 2020
The standard answer for who replaces him has been Khiry Shelton. So I expect Vermes will go that way again but I think over the coming games it won’t be so crystal clear. I’d really like to see Shelton with Daniel Salloi to his left at some point and with so many games so close together, I’d assume we’ll see a healthy dose of Erik Hurtado too. Maybe even more Gadi Kinda playing false nine. It worked once, right?
How’s Johnny Russell’s Knee?
While his name wasn’t brought up directly during the press conference Tuesday with Peter Vermes, PV didn’t mention him not being available (but why would he tip his hat?) Wednesday. If you missed it (and I did originally too), it was pointed out to me on Twitter that he hurt himself well before he came off. I went back and watched and Russell gets his knee clattered into while it’s stuck in the grass around the 78th minute. After that he favors it and is seen hobbling away from the play on a couple of occasions. He toughed it out until the 88th minute when he came off.
Vermes did mention Matt Besler and Luis Martins should return to training Wednesday, so that’s a plus, but back to Russell. I think if he’s not 100% and with so many games coming, maybe this is the game to bring him off the bench and start Gerso on the right and Salloi on the left? Then again, when Pulido was gone, Russell was the only offense. So I’m probably wrong, but I’m going to go out on a limb.
Busio or Ilie?
I know Busio just had a breakout start at attacking mid where he fed two assists to Pulido, but Gadi Kinda and Roger Espinoza are back for Wednesday, so I think we may see Busio back in the #6 role. Now that he has Ilie around to make him even better at that role, I imagine we only see him getting better and better until the right offer comes in and he’s off to Europe.
Even if Busio starts over Ilie at the 6, when Roger or Kinda need to come off for yellow cards or fatigue, Busio can move forward and Ilie can come on and play his role. Busio never seems to tire so I can’t see him getting much of a rest over this next month. It’s going to be hard to keep him off the field no matter what.
Where Does Jaylin Lindsey Start?
Now, no one said he has to start at all, but Lindsey looked damn good at right back when he had his chances earlier in the year (and a bit suspect out of position at left back). And just because Graham Zusi can play every game, doesn’t mean he should play every game. I suspect Vermes may keep running Zues out there, but I think Jaylin Lindsey should start at RB. Amadou Dia has been doing quite well at LB so give Zusi a well deserved rest.
That said, it’ll be Zusi so just know I objected.
Do You Rotate Center Backs?
I think PV was probably very happy with Winston Reid and Roberto Puncec at CB against the Houston Dynamo. They played quite well — though Puncec and Shelton kind of lapsed on the set piece goal late — and I suspect PV will play them again. I’m strongly for Reid not playing too many games in a row (he got hurt the last time he started three straight) so if he plays Wednesday, he HAS to get a rest this weekend.
I’ll guess they go out there again Wednesday but if there is rotation, is it finally Andreu Fontas time? He is a LCB and he has almost never lined up there. He’s collecting a lot of money to not play. And if the speedier Busio is in front of him, that gives more cover for his lack of speed. Why else does Peter keep him around this year if he isn’t going to play him ever? Sporting KC could have just bought him out if they had no plans to use him and find the next CB for their club.
Rest of the 20: John Pulskamp, Jaylin Lindsey, Graham Smith, Andreu Fontas, Erik Hurtado, Cameron Duke, Ilie Sanchez, Johnny Russell, Tyler Freeman
You guys probably have a more rational lineup at forward (Russell over my Salloi prediction which I realize is out there) but then you went with your hearts putting Lindsey in over Zusi which we sadly know PV probably won’t do. Also of interest is you guys have a more attacking minded midfield with Busio and Kinda together with Roger on the bench. Your striker vote was really close too and Tyler Freeman picked up a vote and since SKC II’s season is over, he could start showing up on the bench. He has to make that first team debut at some point, right?
Here is your lineup and full vote tallies by category (with the starters in italics):
Goalkeepers: Melia (100%)
Defenders: Dia (88.5%), Puncec (78.7%), Reid (70.5%), Lindsey (54.1%), Zusi (42.6%), Smith (34.4%), Martins (13.1%), Fontas/Besler (6.6%)
Midfielders: Kinda (90.2%), Busio (82.0%), Ilie (80.3%), Espinoza (41.0%), Hernandez (9.8%), Zusi (1.6%)
Wingers: Russell (80.3%), Gerso (78.7%), Shelton (27.9%), Salloi (14.8%)
Strikers: Shelton (49.2%), Hurtado (47.5%), Salloi (3.3%), Busio/Freeman/Russell (1.6%)