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Sporting KC v Minnesota United: Preview, Predictions, Starting XI, Stats, Injuries and Roster Changes

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MLS returns (again).

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MLS: Minnesota United FC at Sporting Kansas City Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v Minnesota United (#MINvSKC)

When: Friday, August 21, 2020 at 6:30 PM CT

Where: Allianz Field (Minnesota)

How to Watch/Stream: FOX Sports Kansas City Plus | FOX Sports Midwest Plus | ESPN+ | fuboTV
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish)

Sporting Kansas City are back! Again! Major League Soccer has been very start/stop with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hitting the world hard. Friday will be an attempt to restart league play in an 18-game sprint to the finish before jamming in the MLS Cup Playoffs and doing it all again a few months later in 2021.

Sporting KC got three weeks off after going out in the quarterfinals of the MLS is Back tournament while Minnesota United lasted a round further until the semifinals against Orlando City. The team’s second meeting of 2020 will be a battle for first place in the Western Conference with SKC holding a one point edge (12 points to 11 points) through five games.

In the first meeting, things were going quite well for Sporting KC until a second half red card from Tim Melia put Sporting on the back foot for the better part of the remainder of the game. SKC would go on to lose, giving up two goals in stoppage time. It was the first time in club history the team had ever been leading in stoppage time and ultimately lost.

Interesting Stats

  • SKC hold the slight edge in all competitions since Minnesota joined MLS (5-4-2).
  • That being said, they’ve never won a game in Southern Canada Minnesota since the Loons joined MLS in 2017 (0-3-2).
  • Minnesota have scored 36 percent of their goals (4) after the 75th minute this season (two against SKC). They’ve also yet to allow a goal after the 60th minute.
  • SKC have allowed three goals (60 percent) after the 75th minute but have also scored four (31 percent) after that mark as well.
  • Sporting KC are second in the league in Goals For (behind LAFC) entering the sixth game of the season (13). Minnesota are third with 12.

What’s Changed for Minnesota Since 2019?

SKC have played Minnesota already, so below are the changes as of that game, which we wrote when previewing that match. Since that time, Minnesota have added CB/LB Bakaye Dibassy from Amiens (Ligue 1). He won’t be available Friday. They’ve also recalled GK Dayne St. Clair from the USL Championship, though he’ll be in quarantine and also unavailable. So the only real changes since the last match come in the form of injuries.

Their biggest loss is likely goalkeeper Vito Mannone, who was 2019 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. He is replaced by former LAFC keeper Tyler Miller [Update: he’s out for the season now]. The other notable losses are former number one SuperDraft pick, the under-performing forward Abu Danladi and Designated Player Darwin Quintero who provided a ton going forward, but not much in the way of defense.

The additions on the other hand are pretty good. Most notably is new striker Luis Amarilla on loan from Velez Sarsfield (Argentina), he’s scored two goals in two games so far [Update: three in four now]. They also added forward Aaron Schoenfeld via transfer from Maccabi Tel Aviv. They added a handful of MLS veterans in midfielders as well in Marlon Hairston, James Musa (formerly of SKC), Raheem Edwards and Jacori Hayes.

Injuries*

Sporting KC

OUT - Felipe Gutierrez (knee surgery)

QUESTIONABLE - Andreu Fontas (achilles surgery)

*This will be updated with the official injury report.

Minnesota

OUT - Ike Opara (unknown), Tyler Miller (hip surgery), Dayne St. Clair (quarantine)

QUESTIONABLE - Robin Lod (swollen shin), Jacori Hayes (slight pull)

^Follow Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press for MNUFC updates.

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

Minnesota - None

Stats

Sporting KC

GOALS: Alan Pulido, Khiry Shelton (3), Gadi Kinda (2), Erik Hurtado, Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, Johnny Russell, Gerso Fernandes (1)

ASSISTS: Pulido (4), Kinda, Luis Martins (2), Roberto Puncec, Gerso, Johnny Russell, Shelton (1)

Minnesota

GOALS: Kevin Molino (3), Ethan Finlay, Luis Amarilla, Ike Opara (2), Jan Gregus, Robin Lod (1)

ASSISTS: Gregus (4), Finlay, Romain Metanire (2), Raheem Edwards, Molino, Amarilla (1)

Form**

Sporting KC - W / W / L / W / W (12 points)

Minnesota - W / W / W / D / D (11 points)

**in league play

Starting XI Predictions

Go check that out over here. We answer two critical questions:

  • Is Khiry Shelton healthy enough to return and if so who does he push to the bench?
  • Who plays at freaking center back? Lots of options.

Plus we tally your fan votes to see if you guys cumulatively agree with me.

Score Predictions

If Minnesota want to win, they’ll have to do it without Ike Opara. In fact, they will be down quite a few players and will have just two healthy center backs entering the match. Minnesota overcame the lack of Opara, Osvaldo Alonso and striker Luis Amarilla (the spine of the team) in the first meeting, but Sporting thoroughly controlled that game up until just before their red card.

The key to this game will likely be Sporting KC finishing their chances and, of course, avoiding a complete defensive breakdown. In the previous meeting they probably should have gotten three or four goals but came away with one. If they can score early (and preferably often) then there is no reason they can’t play a little more conservative (keep the fullbacks home maybe?) and lock down a win. But if the game remains close, Zusi and Martins will be pushed up in the attack and counter attacking opportunities will exist.

On top of everything, and despite all the absences and injuries, Minnesota are a good team. They’ve beaten the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes on the road and handled themselves well in Florida. Their recent form (draws to Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids) shows there are openings. If SKC want to prove they are elite, they need to push through those openings and secure the three points. Then again, a tie on the road is always respectable.

I’ll be intrigued to see how travelling in and out (all apparently on game day in some cases) will effect road teams for the rest of 2020.

2-2 Draw

What do you think? Predictions in the comments are welcome. Let’s chat about it.

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