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Sporting KC Injury Update and Starting XI Predictions Versus Houston Dynamo

Just one new name added to the injury report.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Houston Dynamo
Sporting Kansas City forward Alan Pulido (9) advances the ball as Houston Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren (24) defends during the first half at BBVA Stadium.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City bounced back against Austin FC after a rough loss in Week 3 to RSL. However, they are back on the road in what look like rainy conditions in Texas to face the Houston Dynamo.

Injury Updates

OUT - Felipe Hernandez (knee)

QUESTIONABLE - Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (hamstring), Roberto Puncec (hamstring)

The only addition to the report is Puncec, who left the Austin game early with a hamstring injury. Vermes said it’s “not as bad” as original thought.

Starting XI Predictions

With just two days off between the home game in Kansas City and the road game in Houston, Sporting KC seem primed to do at least a little bit of roster rotating.

For Sure Getting Rest, Right?!?!

A little bit is probably the key word. Peter Vermes almost never does a full squad rotation. The thinking is, it breaks cohesion and rhythm. You’ll usually only see it in a game just before a much bigger game, like in a US Open Cup run or during heavily congested schedules because of something like CONCACAF Champions League.

Surefire bets to find the bench are players that simply can’t play short rest back-to-backs. PV has said he’ll be more careful with Roger Espinoza in these situations and Graham Zusi was gassed before halftime after a six month plus layoff. Outside of that, there feel like no sure things to rest.

Center Back

Until Nicolas Isimat-Mirin is healthy, I expect this debate to continue as to who starts next to Andreu Fontas. The obvious choice is Kaveh Rad, who has gotten a small percentage of those minutes in 2021. If Puncec and Isi aren’t available, the only other actual CB option is Graham Smith. He played well for SKC II on Friday, but he seems perpetually out of the picture.

One intriguing option is Ilie Sanchez, who slid back to CB late in the game with Austin. However, to paraphrase a commenter on The Blue Testament, that’d be the slowest CB pairing ever. I’d rather see Rad get another chance, though doing that to the kid on the road again may be prohibitive.


Tim Melia was off the injury report late last week but nowhere to be seen on Sunday. He’ll probably pop back into the lineup unexpectedly, but for now, let’s talk John Pulskamp.

On Twitter and a little bit in our comments, the kid is getting a lot of hate. I’m not sure why. He made five, fairly big, saves on Sunday against Austin. He had no fault on the goal. And he was rated a 7.49 on Who Scored, which trailed behind only Johnny Russell, Ilie Sanchez and Gianluca Busio. Not bad company.

Does he sometimes make poor decisions, particularly with his feet? Sure. But he’s 20 and Tim Melia is still sometimes shaky with his feet but has come a very long way in Kansas City. Give the kid a break, for my money he’s been pretty dang good. Clean up a few of those spilled saves and the feet will get there eventually.


I could see Peter not messing with a front line that played pretty dang well. Alan Pulido consistently was chopped down to limit his effectiveness, but Johnny Russell made a huge leap forward being back in his natural spot and Daniel Salloi got into numerous dangerous spots. Salloi needs to finish his chances and Pulido needs a little help from a more sympathetic ref to get some of his calls (did you see the one Ted Unkel waived off where his boot literally came off from being stepped on?), but there is chemistry brewing.

However, if you are going to make a change, put Khiry Shelton at right wing. Here me out! That means Russell gets a bit of a break, then he can come on and push Shelton to LW or CF. Plus Shelton’s best position appears to be RW, so let’s let the better LW play over there (I believe in you Daniel). Plus, Pulido probably needs to not play another full game to keep him healthy, so consider a Wilson Harris sub to get his MLS debut and give Alan a rest.

Full Backs

Luis Martins picking up an assist on his 4,301th cross of the season probably saves him for another game or two (or 10), but Amadou Dia is knocking on the door. I’d start Dia even if you just want to call it squad rotation. Let him see if he can steal the job again. Plus with those athletic wingers coming in from Houston, Dia has more pace and better one v one defending to handle that pressure.

At right back, Zusi better find his way to the bench just so he can stay healthy. Bring him on late if you must, but I’d save him for the weekend as I suspect PV eyes him as the regular starter at RB.

The Midfield Trio

Perhaps the most difficult question of them all. I’ve already benched Espinoza and his 34-year old legs. Not that he couldn’t play, but he shouldn’t.

You’d have to guess that Remi Walter and Gadi Kinda will get starts but that could be wrong. It’s hard to justify taking Gianluca Busio off the pitch and he never seems to get tired. Then again, PV loves him some Ilie Sanchez. I could see a world where Ilie goes to CB and they all get on, but that leaves just young guys on the bench like Cam Duke who has yet to play for the first team in 2021 (not that PV shouldn’t get him in there).

It’s a conundrum. I don’t believe in what I’m going to say, but I’ll say Kinda somehow still has to come off the bench and Walter takes Espinoza’s spot (even though that didn’t work too well against RSL). If I was trying to do what I wanted versus what I think will happen, I’d say Ilie to the bench and Walter to the 6 and the Busio next to Kinda experiment could begin.

Rest of the 20: McIntosh, Russell, Martins, Kinda, Harris, Duke, Smith, Pierre, Freeman

If Zusi really isn’t fit enough, don’t put him on the bench. Have Kayden Pierre ready for an emergency debut. Speaking of debuts, Tyler Freeman is getting closer. Let him sit the bench to get that feeling of travelling with the team.

Fan XI

More votes midweek than over the weekend, nice! And as expected with a midweek game with the possibility of rotation, the percentages were tighter.

First, we have a tie at CB between Isi and Rad. Doubt that happens again. You guys believe in the midfield I’m too cowardly to put on my fake lineup card. You aren’t buying my Russell gets a rest idea either.

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

Goalkeepers: Melia (61.1%), Pulskamp (38.9%)

Defenders: Fontas (85.2%), Lindsey (75.0%), Dia (59.3%), Isimat-Mirin/Rad (41.7%), Martins (37.0%), Zusi (26.9%), Puncec (16.7%), Smith (8.3%), Pierre (1.9%)

Midfielders: Busio (78.7%), Kinda (66.7%), Walter (61.1%), Ilie (47.2%), Espinoza (35.2%), Hernandez (5.6%), Duke (2.8%), Cisneros/Barber/Freeman/Zusi (0.9%)

Wingers: Russell (79.6%), Salloi (61.1%), Shelton (40.7%), Kinda (6.4%), Busio (4.6%), Freeman (1.8%), Duke/Barber/Pulido/Zusi (0.9%)

Strikers: Pulido (83.5%), Shelton (7.3%), Harris (6.4%), Kinda/Russell (1.8%), Busio (0.9%)

What do you think? Did I get the lineup right? If you voted for something different, tell us in the comments (or go to 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!

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