QUESTIONABLE - Khiry Shelton (calf)
Starting XI Predictions
New dilemma this week, as was predictable when Shelton was subbed off on Saturday.
Is Vujnovic Really Available?
This week, Nikola Vujnovic arrived from Europe after waiting over three weeks for his P1 Visa. Despite technically being off the ‘availability report,’ I question if he’s really available. He’ll have had no time to learn the system. I could see him maybe getting on the field for a few minutes, but even that feels a bit like a stretch after just days with the team. Hopefully Sporting KC are way ahead and can afford to just give him some minutes.
Can Shelton Play?
First off, he could totally play, it just depends on the injury severity. So let’s not rule out that he’s potentially still available. To me, the impact looked like it was blunt force and not a non-contact injury (those muscle injuries tend to linger, so let’s hope it’s not that). So possibly it’s a bruise or something along those lines that Khiry could just play through.
Should Daniel Play CF?
We saw a glimpse of this after Shelton came off against Houston. Daniel Salloi moved to striker and Marinos Tzionis played at left wing. The attack was much more dynamic in my opinion, but that could also have been the injection of Cam Duke in the midfield and that Houston was pushing up the field trying to find an equalizer.
I think this interests me the most. I want more of Tzionis on the field, but I have two hesitations.
First, as exciting as he’s been, Tzionis hasn’t had a ton of time in the SKC system and still doesn’t seem to know where he’s supposed to be at all times on the pitch. Going forward it’s fine. He can just create and be fun and dynamic. But defensively, this could be a worry. Especially with a ‘rookie’ LB behind him.
The second worry is if Salloi can hold up over 90 minutes with center backs likely to abuse him. He’s no Shelton. He’s not built like that. Ironically, this is a game where I’d like Shelton at CF and Salloi would be a better fit for a home game with the defense bunkering.
How About a False 9?
To me, this is the other option, and lots of guys could do it. Tzionis could basically do this, and his defensive responsibilities would be lessened (I can hear Peter screaming defense starts at the front). Or someone like Cam Duke or Ozzie Cisneros (zero MLS minutes) could do what Gadi Kinda did at times last year (hell, Gianluca Busio did this too). If Shelton can’t go, this actually may be the better play, with the ability to rotate guys around as the game state changes.
Speaking of Kinda... it won’t be him. Former The Blue Testament staff writer Aly Trost reports Vermes saying of Kinda’s availability, “I can’t tell you, I really can’t. There are so many steps he still needs to go through... he’s not close.”
"I can't tell you, I really can't. There are so many steps he still needs to go through...he's not close." - #SportingKC manager Peter Vermes on midfielder Gadi Kinda getting back on the field following knee surgery this offseason— Aly Trost (@AlyTrost) March 11, 2022
I’ll just predict Shelton plays anyways and only the subbing comes down to all of the above scenarios, but I’m less than confident in this. And I’m really interested if it’s not this. The team really shouldn’t risk Shelton, but he’s a tough dude that I could just see fighting through things.
No Other Changes... Yet
I thought Cam Duke looked good and is screaming for more minutes, but Roger Espinoza and Felipe Hernandez were solid as well, so no reason to think PV changes something that wasn’t broke, unless the CF move causes a cascade of moves.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Duke, Tzionis, Ford, Sweat, Voloder, Cisneros, Davis, Vujnovic
Only one change here as Vujnovic may be needed. No other changes unless Shelton is out.
The vote actually didn’t change from last week, but the percentages fluctuated a bunch. Shelton plummeted with a split of Salloi/Tzionis and even Vujnovic climbing into the battle.
Also, you all remain optimistic that Duke will get to play but the vote for Espinoza climbs from 18ish percent to 44+. Vermes has found his early season lineup, but as the young/new guys come along (Tzionis/Vujnovic) and injuries tick up, things are bound to shuffle.
Here are the tallies of the votes. We’ll stick to just who got at least 5% of the vote in the results. Starters in italics.
Goalkeepers: Melia (96.2%)
Defenders: Isimat-Mirin (98.7%), Ndenbe/Zusi (94.9%), Fontas (92.4%), Sweat (6.3%), Ford/Voloder (5.1%)
Midfielders: Walter/Hernandez (97.5%), Duke (54.4%), Espinoza (44.3%)
Wingers: Russell (98.7%), Salloi (74.4%), Tzionis (24.1%)
Strikers: Shelton (43.0%), Salloi/Tzionis (25.3%), Vujnovic (6.3%)
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