Sporting Kansas City are back in action after a long break and the team could be without up to nine players. All with a huge Western Conference clash looming over the weekend. Sporting KC have to get through the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday first.
OUT - Alan Pulido (Int. Duty - Mexico), Gianluca Busio (Int. Duty - USA), Felipe Hernandez (personal reasons), Two Unknown COVID positives
QUESTIONABLE - Gadi Kinda (foot), Jaylin Lindsey (hamstring), Remi Walter (knee), Roberto Puncec (undisclosed)
Official #SportingKC Injury / Availability Report:— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) July 20, 2021
OUT - Pulido (Mexico), Busio (USA), Hernandez (personal reasons)
QUESTIONABLE - Lindsey (hamstring), Puncec (undisclosed), Kinda (foot), Walter (knee)
Puncec is new and wasn't previously known. The report is brutal. #SKCvSJ
Starting XI Predictions
The one positive of an international break is usually players have a chance to get healthy. Unfortunately, somehow things got worse for Sporting KC. Between the resurgence of COVID hitting vaccinated players and coaches, international duty and a new name on the injury report, things are pretty grim from an “availability” perspective. Despite that, there still still potentially a really solid lineup that can take the field.
The Forwards are Easy
With Pulido gone, it’s pretty clear that it’ll be Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton, with Shelton moving to CF as he did before the break. If any of these guys are in the COVID protocol, the lineup takes a bit of a hit as it’s all “kids” behind them. Not that they don’t deserve some minutes (I’m looking at you Wilson Harris and Tyler Freeman) but the MLS experience of Harris, Freeman and Grayson Barber is a total of 20 minutes (all to Harris). It’s not the way I want to see them get to play. I want them to earn it in practice or with the second team.
Who the Heck is in the Midfield?
With Busio away with the United States at the Gold Cup (and maybe never coming back), Hernandez away for personal reasons and Remi Walter still an unknown on the injury front, the midfield suddenly looks super thin.
It seems obvious you have to move Ilie Sanchez back up to defensive midfielder from center back and Roger Espinoza has been a consistent start. However, Espinoza also will be needed in a critical tilt against the Sounders on the weekend and playing him twice in a few days and on turf doesn’t seem ideal as he approaches the end of his playing career.
Even with all that, there aren’t a ton of other midfielders on the depth chart. Cameron Duke is the next most experienced player and he has a total of 243 MLS minutes played. Behind him are all Homegrown players who haven’t played: Tyler Freeman, Ozzie Cisneros and Grayson Barber. Freeman and Barber have mostly played forward with SKC II as well. It’s real thin but I lean towards Duke unless...
Is it so Desperate we could see a Formation Change?
Could PV roll out a three back (or five back when in defense)? There are more healthy and available center backs than any other position. Do you put out Andreu Fontas, Kaveh Rad and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin? It feels awfully defensive for a team playing at home that like to attack (SKC still lead the league in scoring).
I don’t suspect this will happen because the best three CBs probably means Ilie is still back there and that still leaves a midfield that’s thin. Plus, the players know their responsibilities inside and out in the 4-3-3 and tinkering can lead to more mistakes. Especially when you are asking the younger players to do something they haven’t done before. We all know the 4-3-3 can be defensive enough and sink into a 4-5-1 if needed.
The Return of Isi
If Ilie does in fact move forward into the midfield as will probably be needed, then it’ll finally be time for Nicolas Isimat-Mirin to get his first start since the April 23rd home opener against Orlando City. That’ll be nearly three months between starts, though he did make a late sub appearance in their last match with the LA Galaxy to close out that win.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Harris, Kinda, Rad, Barber, Freeman, Dia, Smith, Pierre
I can still get to a full bench if we add Kinda who is questionable (or any of the other questionable players, though I doubt Puncec is even in KC). I’ll be very interested to see how this all plays out Wednesday. Whoever is missing from the bench, if they aren’t with SKC II, are probably our COVID protocol players. Not that they did anything wrong as the team has a 100 percent vaccination rate.
100% votes for Salloi and Russell feels right, though you rarely see it (even Melia didn’t get 100% though he is the usual suspect to receive all the votes at a position).
The rest of the voting is probably skewed by not knowing all the injury/unavailability information. Kinda could be back. Hernandez scored low in the tallies, but would have been even lower. Other than starting Kinda, you guys, even without an updated availability report, are only one pick off of what I went with. Kudos!
Here is your lineup and full vote tallies by category (with the starters in italics):
Goalkeepers: Melia (99.1%), McIntosh (1.1%)
Defenders: Fontas (94.6%), Martins (77.4%), Isimat-Mirin (73.1%), Zusi (64.5%), Lindsey (39.8%), Ilie (21.5%), Dia (12.9%), Puncec (7.5%), Rad (4.3%), Smith (2.2%)
Midfielders: Espinoza (90.3%), Kinda (77.4%), Ilie (76.3%), Hernandez (29.0%), Walter (17.2%), Duke (5.4%), Zusi (2.2%)
Wingers: Salloi (100%), Russell (100%), Shelton (2.2%)
Strikers: Shelton (88.2%), Harris (7.5%), Kinda (4.3%)
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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