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Sporting KC Injury Update and Starting XI Predictions Versus Seattle Sounders

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Key pieces could be missing on Sunday.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City are heading into what is basically the biggest game of the year so far against the Seattle Sounders. First place versus second place. Good versus evil. Let’s get to the injury report.

Injury/Availability Updates

OUT - Felipe Hernandez (personal reasons), Jaylin Lindsey (hamstring)

QUESTIONABLE - Alan Pulido (knee), Remi Walter (knee)

No improvement in the injury report for Sporting Kansas City. The last game it was a surprise that Remi Walter was added to the report on game day, but everyone else (Lindsey, Pulido and Hernandez) were already on it.

The one positive is that Gadi Kinda was out for religious reasons and he is available again.

Starting XI Predictions

We have many of the same questions we had last time out.

How Hurt is Alan Pulido?

Pulido left the Chicago Fire game after 85 minutes and Peter Vermes described the injury as just “a knock.” However, he then sat out of the Minnesota United game. That was understandable as a midweek game just a few days later. Now another 11 days have passed. While having Pulido would be nice, I wouldn’t guess he’d start (though maybe it’s just PV being coy).

The last time these teams played, Pulido didn’t play and Khiry Shelton got the start. That worked out well as KC won 3-1 in Seattle. That game started with a free kick goal by Johnny Russell, then a counter-attack goal. Seattle will surely sit in deep this time on short rest and as Robert pointed out on the Shades of Blue Soccer Show, Shelton isn’t a good fit against a bunkering team. He doesn’t have that creative touch. He’s a strong player on the counter, but not in tight spaces. Also, he’s not great with his head, so let’s hope KC don’t cross the ball endlessly into the box.

Or let’s hope even more Vermes is secretly planning to start Pulido.

With Gadi Back, Who Sits in the Midfield?

It seems obvious to me Gadi Kinda is a definite starter. With Walter questionable and Vermes saying Mauri is more of a #6 that can play the #8, I suspect he’ll start there (even if Ilie isn’t at CB). It also seems kind of obvious that Roger Espinoza is a regular starter, however, let me make a different case.

Cam Duke should start. Combine his creativity with Kinda’s against a Seattle team likely to sit in deep and play on the counter and that will be a needed skill. Especially if Shelton is the striker as you can’t afford to have yet another non-creative player in the attack. I’m sure I’ll be wrong, but I think it’s the move.

Plus, Duke has absolutely earned it! He’s only got 451 MLS minutes this season but he has two goals (one against Seattle). Plus he scored in the Leagues Cup. He’s more goal dangerous and that’s what KC are likely to need Sunday. If they don’t score early, it could be an ugly game.

Does Isimat-Mirin Return?

On the podcast Thad Bell told us Isi probably isn’t ready to start. Long-term, much like Pulido, it’s probably best to save him for the playoffs. However, if he is healthy enough, he’s the perfect defender to play Seattle. If they do play ugly and look to counter, neither Ilie Sanchez or Andreu Fontas are pacey enough to deal with that if Kansas City find themselves too far up the pitch.

It’s a bit of a bummer that two of the best players match-up wise, Pulido and Isi, may not be available in such a pivotal matchup. Their playoff availability seems more important to me though.

Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Harris, Pulido, Espinoza, Dia, Barber, Davis, Rad, Isimat-Mirin

SKC II played at home on Friday night with John Pulskamp, Ozzie Cisneros, Kayden Pierre, Kaveh Rad and Jake Davis all getting starts (Graham Smith subbed on in the 60th minute for Rad and Davis came off then too). None of them are likely to play for the first team beyond maybe a sub appearance, but even then only Davis got on in an MLS match recently.

Fan XI

Someone is tinkering with the voting so we’ll have to limit it to one vote per computer to at least make it harder to tinker. Don’t mind the weird percentages, lots of votes for people who aren’t on SKC (or kids with zero MLS minutes). Sometimes we just can’t have nice things.

All that nonsense aside, you all probably have a good chance of seeing your lineup. You all have Espinoza and Walter over Duke and Mauri in the midfield. I bet it’s true for Roger and not for Remi. Plus you have Pulido since you didn’t have that inside information that I had.

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 (87.9%), Thompson (12.1%)

Defenders: Fontas (85.9%), Martins (84.8%), Zusi (81.8%), Ilie (49.5%), Isimat-Mirin (41.4%)

Midfielders: Kinda (83.8%), Walter (61.6%), Espinoza (52.5%), Mauri (45.5%), Ilie/Cisneros (12.1%), Duke (11.1%)

Wingers: Russell (87.9%), Salloi (86.9%)

Strikers: Pulido (75.8%), Shelton (8.1%)

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