Sporting Kansas City are entering their sixth game of seven in a 22 day stretch. They’ve done a fairly good job of rotating (though sub usage fell off a cliff this past weekend). The problem is, who’s actually available to rotate this time?
OUT - Felipe Hernandez (personal reasons), Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (hamstring), Jaylin Lindsey (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE - Khiry Shelton (abdomen)
#SportingKC Injury / Availability Report:— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) August 18, 2021
OUT - Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (hamstring), Jaylin Lindsey (hamstring), Felipe Hernandez (personal reasons)
QUESTIONABLE - Khiry Shelton (abdomen)#SKCvPOR
The injury / availability report is unchanged since the weekend.
Starting XI Predictions
At this point, you and I have basically pinpointed Peter Vermes’ rotation strategy. It’ll be a one to three players, but likely not the full lineup, especially after that Club Leon match last Tuesday. That was the exception, not the rule. So the question is, who gets rotated? It’s becoming harder to figure that out as most of the “good” backups are either hurt or otherwise unavailable.
Roger is the Main Question
Espinoza is the team’s second oldest field player (behind Graham Zusi). In the past year or so Vermes has been smarter with not pushing Roger on back-to-back games when there is short rest. For that reason, the only other available midfielder is Cam Duke and I expect him to start. He played next to Gadi Kinda a few weeks ago and they played well.
Who Else Can Reasonably be Rotated?
This is a really big question. It seems unlikely Kayden Pierre would get a start over Graham Zusi, so Jaylin Lindsey is really missed here. It feels more likely Cam Duke would play RB before Pierre is forced into action again (and Cam Duke may be the backup left winger too).
Ozzie Cisneros is another midfielder who is technically available, but I don’t expect to see him anytime soon barring injury. He’s struggled to get consistent SKC II minutes and Vermes wasn’t high on his first team debut.
Amadou Dia could come in at left back. Luis Martins has been a bit of an ironman this year, but he is probably the next most likely to get subbed out simply because Dia is the next highest quality backup available.
What about Grayson Barber or Wilson Harris?
Barber didn’t see the field against Dallas, despite a two goal lead, but if Johnny Russell was dealing with any sort of nagging injury, this is a real possibility. If you look back at his two starts last week (Colorado Rapids and Club Leon), Barber was a bright spot. He didn’t finish, but he got into dangerous positions. I’d be interested to see what he could do with Alan Pulido and Daniel Salloi next to him.
Of course, all this is a mute point if Shelton is available, since he’s a consistent rotational player.
I won’t rule out Harris getting a start with a planned half-time sub for Pulido either. PV has been pretty good about pre-planned subs with the likes of Russell and Pulido this year.
How Does SKC II Impact this Lineup?
They are off in the midweek, so no players need to be loaned out. That probably just means SKC fields a full bench instead of leaving spots open.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Harris, Rad, Puncec, Dia, Barber, Pierre, Espinoza, Cisneros
In the end, I went with just one change (Espinoza out for Duke). What I really want to see is PV using his subs. Being up 2-0 and not subbing until stoppage time against FC Dallas is silly. If you can’t trust your “kids” like Harris, Duke and Barber to close out a game, you need to sign other players.
Speak of other players, Jose Mauri, the new midfield signing, is still presumed to be unavailable pending his P1 Visa.
You guys disagreed with me on Duke over Espinoza, but it was very close. Much, much closer than when I originally picked Duke to start and he was stunningly in that lineup a few weeks back against the San Jose Earthquakes. The rest is chalk.
Here is your lineup and vote tallies (if a player gets at least 5% he’s listed) by category (with the starters in italics):
Goalkeepers: Melia (99.1%)
Defenders: Fontas (93.7%), Zusi (90.1%), Martins (80.2%), Ilie (78.4%), Isimat-Mirin (20.7%), Dia (14.4%), Puncec (7.2%), Smith/Rad (6.3%)
Midfielders: Kinda (93.7%), Walter (85.6%), Espinoza (53.2%), Duke (51.4%), Ilie (13.5%)
Wingers: Salloi (93.7%), Russell (91.0%), Shelton (6.3%)
Strikers: Pulido (94.6%)
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!
The Blue Testament has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though The Blue Testament and SB Nation may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles. If you want to support the site, you can sign up for ESPN+ and we receive a small commission.