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Sporting KC Injury Update and Starting XI Predictions Versus LAFC

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Third game in eight days has to mean more lineup shuffling, right?

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City will play their third game in eight days before getting a full week off ahead of their game against the LA Galaxy. Who does Peter Vermes put into the lineup against Los Angeles FC?

Injury/Availability Updates

OUT - Remi Walter (knee)

QUESTIONABLE - Gadi Kinda (foot), Graham Zusi (hamstring), Luis Martins (hamstring)

Kendall McIntosh is off the injury report but he won’t see the field. Luis Martins is a new addition after going down late against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday.

Starting XI Predictions

You Gotta Rotate Roger, Right? [The Sequel]

Roger Espinoza played 80 minutes against the Portland Timbers last weekend and 67 against Colorado mid-week. Vermes did a good job in 2020 of not abusing Roger and at most I think he has to be relegated to a late sub appearance (but letting him fully rest would be better). Roger probably doesn’t want that. Peter may not do that. But it’s the right thing to do since Espinoza is so important to this team.

The problem is there are so many injured midfielders with Walter out and Kinda being uncertain. If Kinda can go, it’s easy. Play him and Felipe Hernandez (who also will be on his third in eight days but this kid never seems to run out of gas) and play Gianluca Busio deep (same minutes situation as Felipe). If Kinda can’t go, do you let Cam Duke get his first start of 2021? I’d personally be okay with that and every time I’ve predicted they’ll just slide Busio and Ilie forward, they haven’t. Until that actually happens, I should just stop predicting it. I’m good with Cam Duke starting (though hopefully Kinda can go and Duke is first off the bench or vice versa) but Tyler Freeman is a dark horse to make his MLS debut.

Is Nicolas Isimat-Mirin Healthy?

The Blue Testament’s own Thad Bell has confirmed he’s been at practice, but he hasn’t even made it onto the bench in recent weeks. At some point, you’d think he’ll play and Ilie or Fontas will get a rest. They are both on the wrong side of 30 and probably can’t be looked at as game in, game out starters (especially on a triple game week). Ilie did just sit down on the field before Kaveh Rad replaced him late but I’m still not certain that means either of them rest. PV, with good reason, likes a consistent CB pairing.

What did SKC II Tell Us?

On Wednesday the second team played (to a brutally officiated loss that could have/should have been a win). The gave featured five first team players: Tyler Freeman, Graham Smith, Ozzie Cisneros, Kayden Pierre and Brooks Thompson. Of them, only Smith has played games for SKC but he played poorly for the second team (he’s barely played recently) and Freeman seems closest to the field of this bunch. None of them are likely to play today, but Freeman feels the closest.

SKC II are also in action again this weekend, immediately following the first team game on ESPN+.

The Forwards

Daniel Salloi hasn’t gotten any rest, and he could finally catch a break with Khiry Shelton or Johnny Russell playing LW, but I don’t see it. He’s still really young and fit and I suspect he’ll start with Russell returning to RW after only getting 45 minutes and Alan Pulido returning to the starting lineup at CF (random thought: if you rest Salloi, maybe Pulido should play left wing with Shelton or even Wilson Harris in the middle).

Who would have guessed before the year that Salloi would be leading the forward line and potentially be the most important piece? Pulido is obviously super important too and if Russell can get going, this forward trio could be unstoppable.

Left Back + Odds and Ends

No need to risk Luis Martins’ health. Amadou Dia starts in his place. As for this lineup, I’m nearly certain it won’t be right. There should probably be more rotation. But it’s a crapshoot at this point.

Rest of the 20: McIntosh, Harris, Kinda, Rad, Shelton, Barber, Freeman, Espinoza, [empty]

I’m predicting Kinda to at least the bench, but honestly, no point in risking him, Zusi, Martins if they aren’t healthy. Leave them out if they are at risk of re-injuring themselves. If Freeman is still with SKC II and Kinda can’t sit the bench, the team could be very short-handed (not that Vermes uses his subs consistently anyways — though in his defense, he did better Wednesday). Also, PLAY WILSON HARRIS!

Fan XI

I’m always fascinated by the shuffling that happens on a likely rotation game. The voting percentages are all over the place. Rad shot up, Puncec is super out of favor (how long before that guy is transferred?) and you all mostly agree Dia becomes this obvious starter at left back.

You all are a little more optimistic that Kinda will return (but barely, it’s less than half). And lots of votes for Freeman to not only appear, but to start. I think he’ll get his first appearance as a substitute to just get the jitters out of playing in front of a full stadium, but it feels like it’s time to see him and it seems many of you agree.

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

Goalkeepers: Melia (86.0%), Pulskamp (14.0%)

Defenders: Fontas (78.9%), Lindsey (77.2%), Dia (63.2%), Ilie (47.4%), Rad (29.8%), Isimat-Mirin (24.6%), Martins (22.8%), Pierre/Smith (14.0%), Zusi (8.8%), Puncec (3.5%)

Midfielders: Busio (86.0%), Hernandez (73.7%), Kinda (42.1%), Espinoza (36.8%), Freeman/Barber (14.0%), Ilie (10.5%), Duke (5.3%), Walter (1.8%)

Wingers: Salloi (80.7%), Russell (77.2%), Freeman (15.8%), Barber (14.0%), Shelton (7.0%), Duke/Kinda (1.8%)

Strikers: Pulido (82.5%), Freeman (14.0%), Shelton (3.5%), Harris/Salloi (1.8%)

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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