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Sporting KC Starting XI Predictions Versus Philadelphia Union

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There is no hope for rotation, right?

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City forward Gianluca Busio (13) and Philadelphia Union defenseman Auston Trusty (26) fight for the ball in the second half at Children’s Mercy Park.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

I was so high on Peter Vermes and his rotation and use of subs against Real Salt Lake, but then it was all out of the window against the depleted Vancouver Whitecaps. The subs were late and two were left on the bench. And the squad rotation was, again, non-existent. Especially when Vancouver were probably the team to try rotation against.

Starting XI Predictions

There may need to be some rotation this game because of Shelton’s apparent groin injury. Vermes was cagey about the subject during his press conference, but there are a lot of guys who have basically played every minute of the tournament: Alan Pulido, Roberto Puncec, Ilie Sanchez and Graham Zusi. With Shelton only getting a break deep into stoppage time early in the tourney and because he was hurt against the Caps.

Pulido won’t come out (though it’d be intriguing to see him as a sub instead of a starter, but against the Whitecaps felt like the time to try that). There is no obvious replacement for Ilie. Zusi had his best game against Vancouver, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get a break (though he won’t, sorry Jaylin Lindsey). And I can’t see Vermes messing with the center back pairing of Graham Smith and Puncec with back-to-back shutouts (even if the other teams weren’t attacking too much).

So that just leaves Shelton, arguably the teams best player of the tournament. I’m going to go ahead and say he gets rotated because of the groin, but we’ll know more on Thursday morning when the injury report comes out.

With Khiry potentially out or having limited minutes, I’d start Daniel Salloi on the left, have Russell on the right, with Gerso Fernandes and Shelton available from the bench (if Shelton is healthy enough). The reason to start Salloi is because he’s gotten little chance to impact the game and because Gerso is just soooo good off the bench against tired teams.

If there were to be more changes, I could see Gianluca Busio starting again with Gadi Kinda available off the bench since Vermes ran Kinda into the ground on Sunday night. The way Kinda was running in that first half I was certain he was told to go all out because he wasn’t playing the whole game. Whoops.

And a sleeper starter could be Amadou Dia for left back Luis Martins, who also looked a bit tired on Sunday. But that feels less likely.

If Shelton is healthy, he’ll probably start, but I’ll leave him off to mix it up.

Rest of the 23: R. Sanchez, Amadou Dia, Jaylin Lindsey, Matt Besler, Winston Reid, Gadi Kinda, Felipe Hernandez, Wan Kuzain, Khiry Shelton, Erik Hurtado, Gerso Fernandes, Cameron Duke

Not Dressed: Tyler Freeman and John Pulskamp

Substitution Pattern

Obviously this could change based on performance. If someone is playing lights out, leave them on. But based on my starters, here is the order I’d do subs (and remember, five subs are allowed, but across three actions).

  • 55th minute: Felipe Hernandez for Espinoza
  • 65th minute: Gerso for Salloi, Kinda for Busio
  • 75-80th minute: Whoever looks the most gassed. If the game is going well, put on Hurtado for Pulido to close it out. If Russell isn’t performing, sub in Shelton (if not, maybe Cam Duke debuts). This spot is very contingent on game state. Pulido won’t come off if PKs are likely as you need him to take one.

Fan XI

The fan vote assumes the “normal” starters are in. Back to front, right to left: Melia (98.1%), Zusi (76.1%), Puncec (81.8%), Besler (66.7%), Martins (89.3%), Ilie (91.2%), Espinoza (79.9%), Kinda (74.8%), Russell (78%), Pulido (93.1%), Shelton (79.2%).

First, how did Richard Sanchez get four votes and John Pulskamp get two? You want Melia in an elimination game. Did you see that PK performance?

Outside of that it was pretty standard fare. There is some increased voting for “backups” but not enough consensus to make anyone a starter. Here are the top players to receive at least 10% of the vote who weren’t starters: Graham Smith (47.8%), Gianluca Busio (39%), Gerso Fernandes (34%), Jaylin Lindsey (20.1%), Felipe Hernandez (15.7%) and Daniel Salloi (10.7%).

What do you think? Did we get the lineup right? If you voted for a unique formation, show us in the comments. What is your ideal Starting XI? Join us in the comments to discuss.