When: Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 7:00 PM CT
Where: Red Bull Arena
How to Watch/Stream: | Bally Sports Kansas City Plus (regionally) | Bally Sports Midwest (regionally) | ESPN+ (out of market)
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish)
The game has been moved to Bally Sports KC Plus because the Royals game was postponed on Friday night due to rain.
Due to the Royals’ game being postponed and resulting in a double header tomorrow, #SportingKC’s season opener at NYRB is being moved from Bally Sports to Bally Sports Plus.— Shaun Goodwin (@ShaunGoodwinKC) April 16, 2021
Saturday brings the start of the 2021 regular season for Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls. Sporting KC haven’t played a competitive match since December 3, 2020. That’s 135 days, or over four months. The Red Bulls are even worse, having been bounced in the playoffs by the Columbus Crew, the eventual MLS Cup winners, about two weeks prior. Because of COVID and CBA negotiations, the start of the season was delayed and the competitions will be somewhat compressed throughout 2021 (MLS, US Open, CCL, Leagues Cup).
If you’ve spent the last few months completely checked out of soccer, the roster is going to look a lot different. Gone are Matt Besler, Felipe Gutierrez, Gerso Fernandes, Erik Hurtado, Winston Reid and others. In are French signings Remi Walter and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (aka Isi) and a bunch of under the radar Homegrown signings (for more details on all the moves minus the recent Kaveh Rad signing, we’ve got you covered).
Despite all the moves, the majority of the “starters” who ended the season are back. Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell will be asked to lead the line, Gianluca Busio will wear the #10 and be asked to perform up to that number and carry the midfield. Plus others like, Khiry Shelton, Gadi Kinda, Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza and more are all back and ready to contribute. There are still many questions along the back line, with the only real addition being Isimat-Mirin, so questions will begin to be answered Saturday.
RBNY’s 2020 Results
The New York Red Bulls finished 6th in an admittedly weaker Eastern Conference in 2020 (I won’t act like I wasn’t surprised it was that high). They sat on 32 points (compared to 39 by KC in two less games) and were tied with 7th and 8th place Nashville SC and the New England Revolution. As mentioned above, they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by eventual champions, the Columbus Crew. Nothing to be ashamed of there, that’s a good team.
What’s Changed for RBNY Since 2020?
The Red Bulls are still all-in on the youth movement. In addition to the changes below, they also have a new coach. Austrian Gerhard Struber is known for his high-pressing system... sound familiar?
OUT: Center backs Tim Parker and Patrick Seagrist were traded to Houston and Miami respectively. Midfielder Marc Rzatkowski (who’s burned KC before) had his option declined and a few other low contributing players are gone, including new SKC backup keeper, Kendall McIntosh.
Technically Kaku is still on the roster, but all indications are he’s basically gone. Good riddance.
IN: Striker Fabio Roberto Gomes Netto is possibly the biggest addition. He played in the Brazilian second-tier and scored at a good clip. They’ve also added Andres Reyes from Atletico Nacional (Columbia). He was on loan with Inter Miami in 2020 and made 13 starts. RBNY also added attacking fullback Tom Edwards from Stoke City (England) to push Kyle Duncan at right back.
The Red Bulls traded for FC Cincinnati’s Frankie Amaya for around $1 million in GAM. That kind of money says they see him as a starter. I’m not sure if he’s pulling the strings as a 10 or sticking deeper in the midfield.
Additionally, they also added 18-year-old midfielder Wikelman Carmona from Dynamo FC Margarita (Venezuela), acquired a few players on loan from their sister club RB Salzburg (GK Carlos Coronel and Midfielder Youba Diarra), signed some more Homegrowns and added Cameron Harper via transfer from Celtic.
All of this is to say, their roster is full of unknowns. Really young unknowns.
QUESTIONABLE - None
PROBABLE - Alan Pulido
*This has been updated based on Thursday’s press conference.
Melia out with chest injury on the game notes, Dia (Hamstring), McIntosh (eye), Thompson (back) and Zusi (foot). Thompson and Zusi are both recovering from injuries last year. #SportingKC— Thad (@TheBackpost) April 16, 2021
OUT - Jason Pendant (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE - None
Starting XI Predictions
Update 4/16/21: We’ve made some predictions with the updated injury report. Come tell us why we are wrong.
More than just a single game in a 34-game schedule is on the line. The result in this game, as well as the match-ups against Orlando City and Real Salt Lake, will determine if Sporting qualify for the 2021 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Vermes loves to win trophies so I’m confident he’ll have the boys ready to go in the season opener.
That doesn’t mean the Red Bulls, who will be at home, won’t also be ready too. But they have a new coach and lots of new (young) players. They are always a tough out but it feels like a game Sporting should win. Now if as many Sporting players are out as were hurt in the last preseason game (Pulido, Russell, Kinda, Salloi) then Sporting could have a hard time.
If Sporting are mostly healthy, they will win. If they are missing a bunch of these players, be happy with a draw.
I’ll predict the draw to account for what are likely more than a couple injuries we’ve yet to have confirmed. (Update 4/15/21): I’ve changed my prediction seeing the injury report. Melia being out is nothing to sneeze at, BUT I think Pulskamp is up to the job and having so many healthy bodies in the attack makes me feel more confident.
2-1 Sporting KC Win
What do you think? Predictions in the comments are welcome. Let’s chat about it.
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