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Sporting KC v Atlanta United: Preview, Predictions and How to Watch

It’s the national TV season opener for Sporting Kansas City as they hit the road to Georgia.

MLS: Sporting KC at Atlanta United FC
When searching for a photo, I remembered these teams haven’t played in forever. They were set to play in 2020 right as the world shut down. And looking through 2019 pictures shows just how much these rosters have changed.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC @ Atlanta United

When: Sunday, February 27th, 2022 at 2:00 PM CT (Kickoff 2:05)

Where: Mercedes Benz Stadium

How to Watch/Stream: FS1 | Fox Sports App | Fox Deportes
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish)

The Major League Soccer offseason is often fairly short, especially for teams who perform well, but it’s still too long if you can’t wait to see your favorite team. Well Kansas Citians, that team is back! Sporting Kansas City return to action on Sunday, on the road, against Atlanta United and they’ll do so on National TV.

It will be the first time these two teams have met since the 2019 season when Atlanta crushed SKC during that awful season 3-0. Lifetime, these teams are 1-1-1 and Sporting KC will always hold the first ever road win in Mercedes Benz Stadium after they beat Atlanta 2-0.

Since 2019 these teams have changed significantly, heck, Kansas City has had quite a bit of turnover since they were bounced from the playoffs late by Real Salt Lake. Gone are starters Ilie Sanchez (released) and Luis Martins (released) as well as frequent contributor Jaylin Lindsey (traded).

In come a bevy of new players, including former SKC midfielder Uri Rosell, a duo of new left backs in Belgian youth international Logan Ndenbe and MLS and USMNT vet Ben Sweat. Plus the team splashed some more cash signing German youth international Robert Voloder and Cypriot winger Marinos Tzionis.

Sporting KC aren’t without their troubles though. They’ve lost Alan Pulido for the season to injury and will be without the injured Gadi Kinda at least for a bit. The team did bring in reinforcements at center forward by signing Montenegro striker Nikola Vujnovic and shored up the midfield with Felipe Hernandez, who returns from suspension.

So while there is sure to be some turnover every season, SKC have actually returned the majority of their starters and will look to make 2022 a trophy winning season (take a look at the SKC depth chart here). For a deeper dive on what happened over the offseason and what to expect from KC in 2022, check out Robert’s season preview.

What’s New for Atlanta in 2022?

While technically not new, head coach Gonzalo Pineda will take over his first full year at the helm of the club after taking over for Gabriel Heinze. He brings a winning culture to the team that has struggled on the field in recent seasons. His arrival did spark a playoff appearance, but they were ultimately bounced by eventual MLS Cup winners, New York City FC.

OUT: There are some big names here, but it’s offset by one even bigger acquisition. Ezequiel Barco is headed out on loan to River Plate after never quite living up to his massive $15 million transfer fee.

Also gone is USMNT left back George Bello who was transferred to Arminia Bielefeld in the German Bundesliga. Additionally the team lost defender Anton Walkes to Charlotte FC in the expansion draft, fellow defender Franco Escobar in a trade to LAFC and they declined the contract option on Erik “Cubo” Torres after last season.

IN: The biggest addition is undoubtedly Argentina midfielder Thiago Alamda (I once had a FIFA save where he transferred to SKC and grew into the world’s best midfield... oh FIFA). He is an incredibly promising #10 and the most damning thing I’ve seen on him is Matt Doyle compared him to Barco, who was never the string puller the team needed after sending Miguel Almiron to Newcastle United.

He’s joined by veteran MLS destroyer Ozzie Alonso who comes over from Minnesota United after many years with the Seattle Sounders. Also returning is Andrew Gutman, who the team acquired then loaned out for 2021 to the New York Red Bulls. He’ll be the replacement for George Bello at LB.

It can’t be missed that the team signed former SKC striker, Dom Dwyer this week, to provide center forward depth for Josef Martinez.

Injuries/Availability*

Sporting KC

OUT - Nikola Vujnovic (visa issues), Alan Pulido (knee surgery), Gadi Kinda (knee surgery)

QUESTIONABLE - None

*This has been updated based on Peter Vermes’ press conference and the official injury report.

Atlanta

OUT - Emerson Hyndman (ACL), Alan Franco (red card), Jake Mulraney (leg), Machop Chol (leg), Franco Ibarra (visa)

QUESTIONABLE - Thiago Almada (visa), Marcelino Moreno (foot), Brooks Lennon (ankle), Santiago Sosa (visa)

Starting XI Predictions

This has it’s own dedicated story.

Score Predictions

I think Atlanta is probably going to be pretty good this year (though who hasn’t thought that a lot in recent years). They went domestic on their coaching hire instead of just looking for big names and they landed a huge prospective fish in Almada. The home crowd is likely to be fired up and if they go back to playing a counter attacking style that they have so many good pieces for, they could destroy SKC who are susceptible to the counter (or at least have been in recent history).

However, I’m going to say Sporting KC find a way in the opener. Peter Vermes almost always has his teams prepared early in the season and they are usually hot out of the gate. It may take time for Atlanta to figure out what they have and Sporting KC are returning a big chunk of their starters. If Daniel Salloi’s preseason goals are any indication, he’ll pick up where he left off last year with a huge season.

Plus if Almada and a few other of Atlanta’s players aren’t available, that certainly won’t help them. While it could go really wrong, I’m going to say SKC get it done but a draw would be acceptable.

2-1 Sporting KC Win

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