With so much on the line on Sunday for Sporting Kansas City, this was the news that not rotating your squad always felt like it was going to bring. Sporting KC have FIVE additions to the injury/availability report. The silver lining... Alan Pulido has been updated to questionable.
OUT - Felipe Hernandez (suspension), Jaylin Lindsey (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE - Johnny Russell (lower body), Graham Zusi (lower body), Ilie Sanchez (lower body), Gadi Kinda (lower body), Khiry Shelton (lower body), Alan Pulido (knee surgery)
Oh man... this is bad. The new additions are Russell, Zusi, Ilie, Kinda and Shelton. We knew that Kinda picked up a hamstring injury per Aly Trost’s reporting on the broadcast. But this news arriving on Friday will be welcome news to no one in Kansas City and everyone in Salt Lake.
We laid out the playoff scenarios in our previews, so we won’t re-hash that here. Just know there is a lot to play for Sunday (or go read the preview). I told myself I wouldn’t write a lineup prediction article because Vermes wasn’t going to change the lineup. And I won’t. But let’s look at who is available to start and I just won’t predict it (though your voting results, which had none of this new info, are below).
Also, I just want to scream it from the rooftops, I TOLD YOU SO! SKC shouldn’t be in this situation and it’s hard to believe they would be if they would have rotated more than a guy or two in that four game stretch in 12 days.
Who are the Backups??
Let’s break it down by each guy that’s an addition.
Russell and Shelton’s Backups
Daniel Salloi seems to be the only healthy forward and he himself is coming off an injury that cause him to miss two games. Obviously if Pulido is healthy, he could get on the field but I don’t imagine you risk starting him.
The likely replacements are Wilson Harris (at CF) and Grayson Barber (at RW). The other guy who sometimes plays the false 9, Gadi Kinda, is also questionable. There are no other forwards on the roster. Not just, ‘you don’t know them because they are kids,’ but there simply aren’t any. Technically, Tyler Freeman is a forward, but he’s in Germany on loan (where he’s been playing with their U-19s). Freeman can be recalled, but likely he couldn’t get home that fast. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s recalled and if he is, maybe that tells us if these guys are likely to miss more time.
Kinda and Ilie’s Backups
There are options in the midfield. Cam Duke is the like-for-like replacement with Kinda, but I’d imagine it’s possible that Roger Espinoza slots into that spot and Remi Walter keeps playing in the midfield (despite starting and playing all 90 minutes in all four games in this tight stretch). It would make sense to just start Duke and Espinoza, but the weather is going to be nice, so logic need not apply.
At defensive midfield, Jose Mauri and Walter can lineup there as well. I don’t expect Ilie to be needed at CB as Isimat-Mirin got a rest on the weekend.
Beyond these guys, there are more midfielders on the roster. Jake Davis, who made a one minute MLS cameo earlier in the year, and Ozzie Cisneros, who has no MLS minutes but played against Leon, are available. They both played significant minutes with SKC II this year.
Graham Zusi’s Backup
Zusi’s primary backup is Jaylin Lindsey, who is still out from a hamstring injury that has stolen much of his 2021 season. That leaves 18-year-old Kayden Pierre. He has yet to play any MLS minutes but he subbed on against Club Leon when Lindsey went down injured. He’s also played a ton for Sporting KC II. He has the second most minutes on the team, starting in 26 of 28 appearances for 2,352 minutes in the USL Championship.
Pierre also got a call-up for the United States U-20 roster to play in the Revelations Cup in Mexico next week.
The team technically also has Amadou Dia, who exclusively plays left back, but could flip to the right. After getting suspended for a horrible challenge last weekend, I don’t imagine we’ll see him start.
I won’t make a prediction, but I would urge caution. Sure, SKC could fall to third place if everything goes wrong this weekend and end up in Leagues Cup, but no reason to take unnecessary risks with questionable players. Play the kids and rest for two weeks before the playoffs start.
I put this in here simply to capture your votes. Obviously none of you knew of these injuries, except for Kinda’s whos was announced during the game. What stunned me is how much rotation was still voted for even though it feels like PV won’t sit guys unless they are dead or suspended.
Here is your lineup and vote tallies (if a player gets at least 5% he’s listed) by category (with the starters in italics):
Goalkeepers: Melia (90.9%)
Defenders: Fontas (77.3%), Isimat-Mirin/Zusi/Martins (68.2%), Dia (27.3%), Pierre (22.7%), Ilie/Puncec/Rad (13.6%)
Midfielders: Walter (68.2%), Espinoza (63.6%), Mauri (45.5%), Duke (36.4%), Kinda/Ilie (31.8%), Cisneros/Davis (9.1%)
Wingers: Salloi (81.8%), Russell (72.7%), Barber (27.3%), Duke/Shelton (9.1%)
Strikers: Shelton/Harris (45.5%)
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