Sporting Kansas City are heading into their second game of a seven game run that is jammed into a 22 day window. They are off to an 0-1-0 start with an upsetting loss to FC Dallas at Children’s Mercy Park to kick off the run. The next three MLS games are on the road, starting with LAFC. Time to right the ship!
OUT - Felipe Hernandez (personal reasons)
QUESTIONABLE - Cam Duke (hamstring)
Availability report from the official game notes and exactly what Vermes said in presser:— Thad (@TheBackpost) August 3, 2021
• MID - Cam Duke (Hamstring)
• MID - Felipe Hernandez (Personal Reasons#SportingKC
All the players are out of MLS Health & Safety Protocols and everyone is back* from international duty. This is the best the injury report has looked all year. I asked Peter Vermes about Duke and Hernandez. He said that Duke was “progressing really well” but he “wasn’t sure if he’d be available” against LAFC. No update on Hernandez other than him still being away on personal leave.
Starting XI Predictions
While I won’t guarantee these predictions are right, I can tell you I’ve got PV figured out on rotation. This tight stretch of games may put it to the test, but here is the general plan. “Starters” in game one. Starters with one to three changes in game two. Then the rotation just continues ever so slightly from game to game.
Vermes has talked about not wanting to break the teams rhythm by making too many changes, and I suspect that’ll continue. Let’s try to figure out where that minimal rotation will be.
Alan Pulido is Back!
That makes him an obvious candidate to start at striker, especially since Mexico barely used him while he was away. Pulido was away for four games, so it’ll be nice to have him back. Just in time for him to meet fellow Mexican international, Carlos Vela.
Obviously that means someone has to go to the bench. Khiry Shelton is a good candidate and then on the weekend he can step back in and start pushing Johnny Russell to the bench.
Gianluca Busio is Back*
This one is much less certain. Vermes was asked about Pulido and Busio’s availability in the Tuesday press conference and he gave slightly varying answers. He confirmed Pulido is already in LA and meeting the team. For Busio, he said he was back “in the building” in Kansas City.
Vermes on Busio and Pulido availability: Pulido is meeting the team in CA (he's already there). Busio was in the building today in Kansas City. #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) August 3, 2021
The wording seems intentional. It doesn’t say he’s practicing or playing. He could be cleaning out his locker for all we know. If Venezia is giving as much money as has been rumored, it’s hard to imagine you risk playing Busio anymore, especially with Venezia FC already in preseason. I don’t think we’ll see Busio.
Who Plays the #6?
This is a good spot to see some rotation. Vermes confirmed to The Blue Testament that Ilie Sanchez wasn’t 90 minutes fit after the international break so that contributed to him not playing. He was pleased with Remi Walter’s play in the defensive midfielder spot, but he also said he still sees Walter more as a #8, further up in the midfield. Because I that, unless Busio really is in the lineup, I’d suspect Ilie to get this start.
Any Other Rotation? Espinoza? Defense?
Most are in agreement that Roger Espinoza shouldn’t be starting back-to-back games on short rest. For that reason, Walter could push forward to supplant Espinoza. In defense, Vermes doesn’t like to mess with his center back pairings but Isimat-Mirin got off to a rough start getting hurt so early. However, I’d guess Jaylin Lindsey is more likely to be the change on the backline to keep them at a minimum.
I said one to three changes then I went and predicted four. I can’t be trusted.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Harris, Rad, Puncec, Lindsey, Shelton, Espinoza, Zusi, Barber
With everyone getting healthy the bench is starting to take shape. There are some guys I’d like to see not on the bench and with SKC II (Pierre, Rad, Barber, Cisneros) but there is probably a need for at least one of them to come on the trip.
It’s kind of wild. I didn’t look at your votes until the end of this story (I promise, I don’t want them to influence me), but we picked the exact same lineup. We are hanging out with each other in the comments too much I guess?
Here is your lineup and full vote tallies by category (with the starters in italics):
Goalkeepers: Melia (97.3%), McIntosh/Pulskamp (1.4%)
Defenders: Fontas (93.2%), Isimat-Mirin (91.8%), Martins (83.6%), Lindsey (52.1%), Zusi (47.9%), Dia/Ilie (11.0%), Puncec/Smith (2.7%), Rad (1.4%)
Midfielders: Kinda (90.4%), Walter (60.3%), Ilie (57.5%), Espinoza (45.2%), Duke (30.1%), Hernandez (15.2%)
Wingers: Salloi (100%), Russell (91.8%), Shelton (8.2%), Freeman/Barber (1.4%)
Strikers: Pulido (71.2%), Shelton (19.2%), Harris (8.2%), Freeman (1.4%)
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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