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An RSL COVID Positive, New Sporting KC Injuries and the Status of Sunday’s Game

Unfortunately, there are lots of injuries. But we still try to predict the lineup even if it’s all for naught.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at FC Cincinnati
That’s not six feet.
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City are set to finally play a game after the Minnesota United game was cancelled this past weekend. They’ll hit the road to play Real Salt Lake on Decision Day. Or, at least that was the plan. Now it appears Real Salt Lake has a positive test that just was reported today. However, reports are “all other first-team players and staff have returned consecutive negative tests.” According to the team, the game is still set to go ahead at this time.

Due to the uncertainty of the situation, it might be an exercise in futility to predict who starts for SKC in case yet another game is cancelled. However, let’s just run through it really quick.

Injury Updates

The official injury report doesn’t come out until game day, but the OUT category is confirmed and that report won’t list questionable players. I’m putting Busio and Reid there as a precaution and reminder that they missed SKC’s last game against FC Cincinnati. I imagine they are available but we won’t know until an hour before kick-off since it didn’t come up in the press conference. I could see Busio being available and Reid not being available out of an abundance of caution.

OUT - Felipe Gutierrez (knee surgery), Graham Zusi (foot surgery), Alan Pulido (knee injury), Wilson Harris (not medically cleared), Gadi Kinda (not medically cleared)

QUESTIONABLE - Gianluca Busio (unknown), Winston Reid (groin)

It’s also worth noting, someone that is listed as OUT, has tested positive for COVID-19 on Sporting KC. The good news is everyone else on the team has multiple negative tests. It’s somewhat remarkable how good SKC’s protocols are. They’ve had three, separate, spread out, positive tests and never have they allowed it to spread to another player on the team. Remarkable. Or brilliant if you prefer.

Starting XI Predictions

Let’s start by tackling who replaces the starters who are suddenly on the injury report.

Who Replaces Pulido?

In the interest of keeping it simple. I think Peter Vermes prefers Khiry Shelton here based on his past choices. However, he’s started just one of the past three games and he was removed at halftime in that game. In the other two he played 32 minutes across two substitute appearances.

The door seems open for Erik Hurtado, who’s definitely been the hot hand when Pulido is unavailable (which honestly, is far too often). If Shelton starts, maybe the leash is short again. But it feels like Hurtado should be the choice.

Bummer for Wilson Harris that he is on the injury list as maybe he could have come on late and made his first team debut.

Who Replaces Gadi Kinda?

If Busio is healthy, this is easy. Slide him back into the midfield next to Roger Espinoza with Ilie Sanchez at the number 6. If Busio isn’t available, it’s much messier. Do you put Espinoza next to Felipe Hernandez? They are very similar players with neither likely to create as many chances as a Busio or Kinda. Cameron Duke seems to be the preferred sub for Kinda or Busio when the other isn’t available. He’s played well, but not spectacular.

I suspect we’ll see Busio and nothing else will matter.

Left Wing

This is a tough choice lately. There has been no stability here. For simplicity here is what I will go with: Daniel Salloi gets the start if Shelton is the CF because I like how they work together. If it’s Erik Hurtado then put Gerso Fernandes on the wing. You just know it’s going to be Hurtado and Shelton together now.

Oh wait! Busio is healthy, he’s the starting left winger, right?!?! If he wasn’t so needed in the midfield I’d say yes based on recent selections and how well it seemed to work. But it worked with Pulido at CF and Busio is needed in the midfield.

Everything else in the lineup is unchanged (Reid over Fontas if healthy).

Rest of the 20: John Pulskamp, Matt Besler, Cameron Duke, Luis Martins, Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi, Andreu Fontas, Tyler Freeman, Graham Smith

Fan XI

The voting is a mess because the Pulido and Kinda injury news came late in the week after the vast majority of the votes. I just struck through those names and put the next guy up as a starter, but I have no doubt it’s not what you intended. Let us know in the comments the changes you’d make.

Also, something in the math keeps throwing me off. Four midfielders, yet again, got more than 50% of the vote. Is this a vote for a 4-4-2 or a misvote when you intended to put Busio at winger or something?

Here is your lineup and full vote tallies by category (with the starters in italics):

Goalkeepers: Melia (97.8%), Pulskamp (2.2%)

Defenders: Puncec (89.9%), Lindsey (87.6%), Dia (83.1%), Reid (71.9%), Fontas (24.7%), Martins/Besler (13.5%), Smith (10.1%)

Midfielders: Kinda (83.1%), Ilie (79.8%), Busio (61.8%), Espinoza (53.9%), Hernandez (9.0%), Duke (6.7%), Kuzain (5.6%), Pulido (2.2%)

Wingers: Russell (92.1%), Shelton (56.2%), Gerso (31.5%),Busio (16.9%), Pulido (2.2%) Salloi/Freeman/Harris/Hurtado (1.1%)

Strikers: Pulido (78.7%), Hurtado (12.4%), Shelton (6.7%), Salloi/Kinda (1.1%)

What do you think? Did I get the lineup right? If you voted for something different, tell us in the comments (or go to BuildLineup.com or a similar site and show us). What is your ideal Starting XI? Let’s talk about it! There isn’t enough lineup discussion for my liking.