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Sporting KC Injury Update and Starting XI Predictions Versus San Jose Earthquakes

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Two surprising additions to the injury report and one player has their name removed.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Sporting Kansas City William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City are back on the road in a place they’ve historically struggled. Let’s add some injuries to those struggles.

Injury Updates

OUT - None

QUESTIONABLE - Andreu Fontas (adductor), Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (hamstring), Graham Zusi (quad), Johnny Russell (groin)

Bad news to see both Andreu Fontas and Graham Zusi added to the report. Fontas and Luis Martins had been the only stability on the backline and Zusi had looked pretty striking in his return with the team going 2-0-0 in his two starts. Potentially not having them is rough.

Starting XI Predictions

Those injuries really mess with things.

Zusi Can’t Start, Right?

I had planned to use this space to declare Graham Zusi as the starting right back. Not just in Peter’s mind but in his performance. Then he pops back up on the injury report. Perhaps pushing too hard in his two games back caused the quad injury? Maybe it was something in practice? Vermes has been fairly coy about injuries in his recent press conferences, so it’s hard to know.

Regardless, it would seem you can’t risk a muscle injury and Jaylin Lindsey should start again. Defensively, it’s probably a stronger play, but it’s undeniable in these last two outings what Zusi brings to the offense. His ability to combine with both Russell and Khiry Shelton, along with all the midfielders and to send beautiful curling balls over the top will be missed.

Center Back

The other new injury is that of Andreu Fontas. He and Ilie Sanchez had looked very good at center back together with their ability to dominate possession (despite some speed disadvantages). That experiment may be coming to an end with the new muscle injury and/or the return of Roberto Puncec. With Isi still on the injury report, maybe it’s Ilie and Puncec in the back? Maybe it’s me but I’ve not been terribly impressed with Puncec at any point. The lack of effort to slide on the Austin goal in his last appearance just adds to it. But if Fontas and Isi can’t go, I’m not sure PV would trust Rad or Smith on the road against the San Jose Earthquakes’ unique man-marking system.

What did SKC II Tell Us?

There may have been a hint of center back problems as Graham Smith and Kaveh Rad were nowhere to be seen. Additionally, it could be impactful that Grayson Barber didn’t make the 18 and Tyler Freeman and Ozzie Cisneros stayed on the bench. Freeman and Cisneros could play against Indy Eleven with SKC II a few hours before the first team game on Saturday (that’ll be a lineup to watch).

As for the starters, only Kayden Pierre (likely the third string right back) and Kendall McIntosh got on the field from the first team. Not players likely to see the field for SKC any time soon.

Forwards

This feels straight forward with Russell still on the injury report. Left to right: Daniel Salloi, Alan Pulido and Khiry Shelton. It worked last weekend and Shelton’s at his best on the right. If the ‘there is probably nothing to this’ rumor of Russell leaving is true, Khiry’s got to show he’s the man.

The Midfield Trio

Last weekend I predicted Ilie would push Remi Walter back to the 6 if he was at CB. I have no clue what I was thinking. In the midweek game against the Houston Dynamo, Busio took over that spot mid-game and of course he did. He’s the team’s best 6 (fight me!), best attacking minded 8 and probably at least the second best left winger and center forward. Busio made the 6 role his and I expect more of that in San Jose.

That makes it easier to decide who is ahead of him. Gadi Kinda is playing better and better and lights more of a fire in the midfield and Roger Espinoza, even at 34, is the best box-to-box destroyer on the team. Remi Walter has yet to really break through and likely will continue to be the first midfielder off the bench at any of the three spots he’s needed in. He likely needs more time with the team to gel or an injury to push him back into a starting role. He’s fifth in my midfield depth chart (with Ilie sliding in there when not at CB). That said, Busio, Kinda and Espinoza seems like the best possible midfield no matter who is available for SKC.

Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Walter, Harris, Duke, Rad, Smith, Barber, Dia, Hernandez

I’d expect to see minutes for Walter, Wilson Harris, Duke and maybe no one else if this bench is right. Though I’d love a 2021 debut from Felipe Hernandez and PV to in general to put on fresh legs late to keep San Jose honest.

Fan XI

Just when you think you have these things figured out, more injuries crop up. That hurts the fan vote again this week as you don’t have the insight I get in terms of the report. How would that change your votes?

Martins and Fontas emerged as the strongest vote receiving defenders, and rightfully so based on recent performances. The midfield has completely flipped to my predicted midfield. Salloi is running away with the winger vote (oh my how things change) and Tim Melia gets our first 100% of the season (as always).

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

Goalkeepers: Melia (100%)

Defenders: Fontas (95.9%), Martins (83.5%), Zusi (72.2%), Ilie (45.4%), Isimat-Mirin (43.3%), Lindsey (26.8%), Dia (14.4%), Puncec (8.2%), Rad (7.2%), Smith (1.0%)

Midfielders: Busio (94.8%), Kinda (77.3%), Espinoza (49.5%), Walter (47.4%), Ilie (30.9%), Duke (1.0%)

Wingers: Salloi (95.9%), Russell (53.6%), Shelton (44.3%), Kinda/Busio (2.1%), Barber/Zusi (1.0%)

Strikers: Pulido (95.9%), Harris (3.1%), Freeman (1.0%)

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!

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