Sporting Kansas City are finally back in action after the international break and they will be the first game of the MLS weekend.
OUT - Kendall McIntosh (adductor), Gadi Kinda (Healthy & Safety Protocols), Alan Pulido (Int. Duty)
QUESTIONABLE - None
Nicolas Isimat-Mirin is off the list for the first time since being injured against Orlando City in the second game of the season. McIntosh is a new addition, along with the known international absences.
Starting XI Predictions
Let’s get right to it.
International Absence Dominos
Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda aren’t available. They account for eight of the team’s 15 goals in 2021 and are two of the team’s three Designated Players (Johnny Russell, the third DP, has seven appearances but just 211 minutes). Their lack of availability will hurt. The team has been clicking with them in the lineup.
Gianluca Busio can and has played both of their positions in 2021. I personally think his best spot on Sporting KC is the #6 role, but with Isimat-Mirin back from injury and with another couple weeks of rest and hopefully working back to full fitness, presumably Ilie Sanchez slides back to the #6 and Busio is available for one of those other roles. But which one?
While the team was 1-0-1 with Busio at the false 9, he seems to be the most creative option in the midfield. I’d lean towards the midfield but then who plays striker? There are essentially two options: Khiry Shelton and Wilson Harris. Harris has played a little for SKC II in 2021 and even less for the first team. He has yet to score, but he needs time to find a rhythm which is tough with a constantly in flux SKC II lineup and very limited first team minutes.
I suspect Vermes will go the safe route and play Shelton at striker with Russell fully off the injury report. When the team needs a sub at forward though, it’s suddenly very thin with just Tyler Freeman and Grayson Barber available on the wing, both of whom have a combined zero minutes of MLS play.
Of course Busio could always slide forward to one of the spots and bring on another midfield or Harris could continue to get late appearances (which I’m personally pulling for more minutes to go his way).
If Busio doesn’t replace him (which I suspect he will), then that leaves a lot of talented players who don’t necessarily fit the more “attacking” profile of this spot. I could see Peter Vermes going with Remi Walter and his “French touch” next to presumed starter Roger Espinoza. Felipe Hernandez has played well with SKC II after returning from injury but he and Espinoza are very similar.
A dark horse may be Cameron Duke who is definitely more creative than the other two, but also has by far the least amount of professional experience. I’d guess it’s Busio next to Roger with Ilie behind them. Then again, there is a lot more proven midfield depth than forward depth.
What did SKC II Tell Us?
I’d be remiss to not mention the Sporting KC II game from Wednesday, though it’s lineup impact is likely nil. The team tied Atlanta United 2 with a 2-2 scoreline, but the only starters from the first team were at fullback — Amadou Dia and Kayden Pierre. Luis Martins has proved in recent weeks he deserves to start and Pierre is third on the right back depth chart behind Graham Zusi and Jaylin Lindsey.
Ozzie Cisneros rode the pine and no goalkeepers were loaned down.
Speaking of right back... Zusi probably gets another start. Lindsey played his best game after Zusi “stole back” his starting job so this should be a continued competition. However I expect Zusi to get a decent amount of starts even though, long-term, this is Lindsey’s spot. The competition should be good for both of them.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Walter, Harris, Duke, Rad, Smith, Barber, Hernandez, Freeman
Lots of youth on the bench. Let’s hope PV isn’t afraid to use them.
In defense you all had Ilie still starting without the insight I have from Isimat-Mirin being off the injury report. I imagine that would change some minds. Additionally, it was unclear with Gadi Kinda playing Wednesday for Israel if he could play Saturday, that’s been cleared up as he’s out so that skews the results. Outside of those two quirks, we are in agreement.
I do love how the parents or players are voting for the young guys. I mostly say this in jest but if it’s true, comment down below, we’d love to know your read our stuff. I won’t rule out any of the youth players to make a sub appearance, but I doubt anyone starts that isn’t expected. If you made me choose, I’d pick Harris, but don’t hold your breathe.
Here is your lineup and full vote tallies by category (with the starters in italics):
Goalkeepers: Melia (98.6%), Pulskamp (1.4%)
Defenders: Fontas (91.5%), Martins (82.4%), Zusi (78.2%), Ilie (52.8%), Isimat-Mirin (43.0%), Lindsey (22.5%), Dia/Puncec (9.2%), Rad/Smith (2.8%), Pierre (0.7%)
Midfielders: Busio (86.6%), Espinoza (87.3%), Kinda (57.0%), Ilie (35.2%), Walter (29.6%), Duke/Hernandez (2.1%), Cisneros/Zusi (1.4%), Barber (0.7%)
Wingers: Salloi (93.7%), Russell (90.1%), Shelton (13.4%), Busio (2.1%), Freeman/Kinda (1.4%), Barber (0.7%)
Strikers: Shelton (64.1%), Busio/Harris (12.7%), Pulido (4.2% — all write-ins), Salloi (3.5%), Russell (1.4%), Freeman/Kinda (0.7%)
What do you think? Did I get the lineup right? If you voted for something different, tell us in the comments. 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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