Sporting Kansas City are coming off a nice road win against Minnesota United on Friday so it’s easy to be tempted to say Peter Vermes will keep the lineup 100 percent the same against the Houston Dynamo. And it’s entirely possible he will. Then again, there are a mere three days between games, including travelling back from Minnesota the night of. It’s possible some squad rotation will be needed, especially as Sporting KC are set to play yet again the following Saturday, with just three days rest in between.
Starting XI Predictions
Let’s keep with the trend of not addressing each position and instead asking a few questions.
Should Roger Espinoza start again?
Espinoza started and played 75 minutes before coming off the field nursing a hamstring or possibly a cramp. He was replaced by Felipe Hernandez. Espinoza played well, as is usually the case when he’s not fatigued. However, with three games in a nine day span, he cannot be expected to play in all three. In the past, Vermes has pushed it and played him that much, but with the first six games of the schedule coming in 24 days, squad rotation seems inevitable.
Now seems like the time to give Hernandez his second ever start. He started the disastrous Decision Day game against FC Dallas last year, but that was hardly his fault. He has played well in his limited minutes in 2020, particularly when he subbed on against Real Salt Lake in the MLS is Back tournament. Start him and rotate in Roger if necessary (if he’s even healthy).
Besides, Roger sees Felipe as better than him at Hernandez’s current age and as a like-for-like replacement.
Will Ilie return?
Ilie Sanchez missed Friday’s win with Gianluca Busio replacing him to rave reviews. The team reported he was out for “family issues.”
It’s probably pretty safe to assume he won’t be available again but we just don’t know. We’ll see if there is an update from the team between now and the game. There was supposed to be a press conference this morning with Vermes but no news has come out about that yet. I’m slotting Busio in here again as I imagine Wan Kuzain isn’t getting on the field without some injuries at this point.
Do you mess with the Defense?
It’s become obvious at this point Graham Zusi won’t be sat pretty much ever. Maybe Saturday Lindsey can rotate over there? I doubt it though. The center back pairing of Winston Reid and Graham Smith played well. They won numerous balls in the air and were a steadying force the entire game. There is no doubt Smith could play again as he’s the youngest CB on the team and seems fully fit.
But can Reid play again? Vermes said in the post-game press conference Reid was probably getting tired because he’s not used to the humidity, despite practicing in Orlando and Kansas City. Reports have it being very humid on Tuesday in KC. This was also Reid’s first real game minutes in a few years despite some preseason and second team (in England) appearances.
Maybe Vermes goes full switch at CB and lets Matt Besler and Roberto Puncec try to recreate the early season magic. Then Reid and Smith are fresh for Colorado this weekend.
At left back Jaylin Lindsey was a bit unsteady and did give up an own goal. It’ll be interesting to see if he starts again (fitness shouldn’t be an issue) or if it’s Luis Martins of Amadou Dia who is next up. Martins didn’t even make the bench and SKC were linked to a 31-year-old left back over the weekend. Martins played poor in his final outing during MLS is Back. PV has been known to put people in the dog house. Maybe it’s Dia time?
I imagine the rest of the lineup will stay the same and if they need some rotation that can come over the weekend as to not change too many things from game to game. If Peter keeps making subs relatively early, it should allow players to start more frequently. The team is in first place. No need to run anyone into the ground though so some rotation could/should spring up throughout the rest of the season if Vermes wants any chance to keep his player fresh and healthy for the playoffs.
Rest of the 20*: Richard Sanchez, Jaylin Lindsey, Graham Smith, Winston Reid, Daniel Salloi, Erik Hurtado, Gerso Fernandes, Cameron Duke, Wan Kuzain
*MLS has reduced game day rosters to 20 players, so no more carrying an entire team of backups and then some on the bench. Some decisions must be made.
You guys didn’t agree with me on the lineup (on the whole) but the voting was pretty close. Back to front, right to left: Melia (100%), Zusi (60%), Smith (58.3%), Reid (65%), Martins (58.3%), Busio (61.7%), Espinoza (70%), Kinda (93.3%), Shelton (81.7%), Pulido (91.7$), Russell (81.7%). So only Martins over my guess of Dia and Espinoza over Hernandez.
Here are the players with the most votes who didn’t start if they got at least 10%: Lindsey (55%), Ilie (45%), Puncec (43.3%), Besler (31.7%), Hernandez (28.3%), Gerso (26.7%) and Dia (10%).
Only Tyler Freeman and the backup keepers got zero votes. Makes sense as Pulskamp and Freeman were with SKC II Saturday and probably aren’t available (seems to be a 10-day hold coming back from USL loan).