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Sporting KC Injury Update and Starting XI Predictions Versus Orlando City

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The injury report has cleared up a little in preparation for Friday’s home opener.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City are about to return to a 35 percent capacity Children’s Mercy Park for the first time in a long time. Their last home game was December 3rd with a smaller capacity. So let’s see who won’t be on the field.

Injury Updates

OUT - Tim Melia (chest), Graham Zusi (foot surgery), Brooks Thompson (back), Ilie Sanchez (back spasms)

QUESTIONABLE - None

PROBABLE - Alan Pulido (unknown), Johnny Russell (ankle), Amadou Dia (hamstring), Kendall McIntosh (eye)

“Available for selection” is obviously an intentionally vague choice of words by Peter Vermes. I’m not sure that means they are fully healthy. Let’s discuss.

Starting XI Predictions

Before we get in to things, members of the media were at practice Wednesday but when someone asked if that was the starting lineup on the field, Vermes responded, “If you think that was a starting lineup and I’d do that in front of you guys...” and he laughed and sort of trailed off.

So I’m going to try not to let what I saw and you probably saw in pictures and videos from all the various media outlets that were in attendance not really influence me. Instead of going position by position, let’s break it into lines.

Goalkeeper

It sounds like Kendall McIntosh will be good to go for Friday. It’s possible he’ll take the starting spot, but outside of one minor flub (that he got himself out of), John Pulskamp played well and deserves another start in my opinion.

Defense

The only spot really up for grabs on the backline is probably left back. Amadou Dia was out during week one and therefore couldn’t take the starting job. While I thought Luis Martins didn’t have a strong first showing, it’s tough to see Dia coming in off an injury and taking the job on a short week. Plus Martins was in the first lineup all preseason, for whatever that is worth.

Jaylin Lindsey would start by default on the right but he played well, being involved in both goals, so he also deserves it. Plus Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Andreu Fontas need more time together and started off pretty good in the opener.

Midfield

Ilie Sanchez was a surprise scratch due to back spasms last week. He’s listed as out this week so that just leaves Walters probably. I actually expect the midfield to remain unchanged as well. That’s Remi Walter at the 6 (though he told The Blue Testament at media day his preferred spot is the 8) and Roger Espinoza and Gadi Kinda in front of him. The only way this changes in my eyes is if Gianluca Busio takes one of those spots because Pulido is healthy enough to start.

Forwards

This is probably the line in the most flux. Wilson Harris played 45 minutes at striker on Wednesday for Sporting KC II and Busio started over him last weekend anyways. Khiry Shelton looks very good at right wing and Daniel Salloi obviously opened his account for 2021 against the New York Red Bulls.

The questions become, have Johnny Russell and Alan Pulido advanced far enough to be able to start on Friday? I think the “available for selection” is telling. Peter Vermes doesn’t disclose starters, but that vague wording could be a trick, but it feels like Pulido and Russell will just sub on earlier to work back to full fitness.

So after all that, I’m going chalk. Run back the week one lineup and just get the Designated Players who are injured into the game earlier.

Rest of the 20: McIntosh, Russell, Pulido, Puncec, Hernandez, Harris, Duke, Barber, Rad

Tyler Freeman, Graham Smith and Ozzie Cisneros all played for SKC II on Wednesday (as did Harris). SKC II have another preseason game on Saturday and that lineup could help us understand the bench better. Then again, lots of guys who don’t sub on for KC on Friday could be full participants on Saturday. It’ll be good to see more movement between the teams.

Fan XI

You guys are not buying what I’m selling of a repeat. Pulido runs away with the striker vote, Espinoza gets pushed to the bench when Busio slides back into the midfield. And Russell pushes Salloi to the bench too. I’d honestly be happy with all of that, I’m just not sure based on the limited minutes from Pulido and Russell last weekend.

Worth noting is the striker vote could have been off. Busio wasn’t listed as an option and only a few people wrote him in. He’s on there for next week’s poll, but let’s also just hope Pulido is a full go by then (if not sooner).

Here is your lineup and full vote tallies by category (with the starters in italics):

Goalkeepers: Pulskamp (95.9%), McIntosh (4.1%), Siegfried (1.2%)

Defenders: Lindsey (97.6%), Isimat-Mirin (95.3%), Fontas (85.8%), Martin (80.5%), Puncec (17.2%), Dia (16.0%), Smith (3.6%), K. Rad (2.4%), Zusi (1.8%)

Midfielders: Walter (86.4%), Kinda (81.1%), Busio (80.5%), Espinoza (33.1%), Ilie (23.1%), Hernandez (3.0%), Freeman/Duke/Barber (1.2%), Cisneros (0.6%)

Wingers: Russell (85.8%), Shelton (64.5%), Salloi (37.3%), Busio (11.8%), Kinda/Pulido (3.6%), Freeman (1.2%), Cisneros/Duke/Harris (0.6%)

Strikers: Pulido (85.8%), Shelton (6.5%), Kinda/Russell (3.0%), Salloi (2.4%), Harris (1.8%), Busio (1.2%), Freeman (0.6%)

What do you think? Did I get the lineup right? If you voted for something different, tell us in the comments (or go to BuildLineup.com or a similar site and show us). Knowing what you know now, how would you change your lineup? What is your ideal Starting XI? Let’s talk about it! There isn’t enough lineup discussion for my liking.