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Sporting KC Injury Update and Starting XI Predictions Versus Chicago Fire

The top five (!) goal scorers from 2021 are all injured. Where do the goals come from?

MLS: Chicago Fire at Sporting Kansas City Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City are looking to bounce back after a disappointing road trip to the Colorado Rapids last weekend. They’ll meet the undefeated Chicago Fire and do so with a limited roster, yet again.

Injury/Availability Updates

OUT - Alan Pulido (knee surgery), Gadi Kinda (knee surgery)

QUESTIONABLE - Khiry Shelton (calf), Uri Rosell (hamstring), Johnny Russell (hamstring), Daniel Salloi (calf)

A few quick notes on the injury report this year. Teams are putting it out on the Wednesday before games so it’s ending up being a little off. Last week, Daniel Salloi was a surprise pop-up injury. This week, quite a few guys are questionable that might get upgraded. Of course another player could be added to the report.

Two other notes. Felipe Hernandez isn’t on the report, which seems promising. Also, you’ll notice Jose Mauri is on the report. Presumably he hasn’t parted ways with the team yet because the team could transfer him out when another countries window opens and free up his salary space versus just eating it.

On a personal note, I’m travelling and availability to join conference call with Peter Vermes are limited for the second straight week. I’ll see if I can update this story with the answers that others get during that call.

Starting XI Predictions

The forward problems just continue.

If all the Questionable Forwards are Out, Who Starts?

Presumably Marinos Tzionis (who won’t take his international call-up until after this game) and Nikola Vujnovic would start again. They haven’t had much time with Sporting KC, but they are players who will presumably fight for starting jobs over the season when they get more comfortable in the system. For Saturday, they’ll probably just be forced in again.

The question becomes, who plays the right wing spot? Last week, when Johnny Russell went down with his hamstring injury, right-back Kayden Pierre subbed on. Either he, or fellow right-back Graham Zusi can play there. Ozzie Cisneros, who has yet to make his MLS debut, can play there or at center forward.

However, a sleeper move would be a midfielder to the wing. Cam Duke jumps out as one of the more athletic players. But Felipe Hernandez played on the wing a bit when he was with SPR/SKC II. It’s not his best spot, but if Duke’s best spot is in the midfield, maybe you push Hernandez out wide. Jake Davis showed he can come off the bench if you need midfield depth. Plus you could still always do any of the aforementioned moves and slide Hernandez back into the midfield if needed.

I Wouldn’t Push any of these Muscle Injuries

With Tzionis set to leave after this Fire game, if Russell, Salloi AND Shelton still can’t play after this week, it’s going to be a disaster out there against RSL. There is a case to be made for packing it in against Chicago and looking to hit on the counter so you are healthier against Real Salt Lake at home.

Formation Change

Frequent The Blue Testament commenter, Andy Wacker, suggested a 5-4-1 formation. The team is flush with healthy center backs with Robert Voloder and Kortne Ford ready to step in. Vermes seems to rarely go away from his 4-3-3, but desperation could cause it.

I could more readily see a 5-3-2, but it’s semantics because he had Tzionis in his 4, and I’d move him to the forward line to play underneath Vujnovic. I doubt this happens, but I’d guess Ford joins the backline if there are five in the back. That would mean no RW needs to be found and the rest of the lineup could basically be the same.

Duke Starts?

Last week Cam Duke subbed on early when Felipe Hernandez picked up a shoulder injury. This is probably a moot point because both guys might be needed, but if one of the three injured forwards can play and Duke/Hernandez aren’t needed on the wing, I’d start Duke in the midfield. He looked good last week and I just don’t think that PV will go with Duke AND Hernandez quite yet.

As for who would be healthy enough to play forward, I’ll guess Shelton on the RW.

Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Hernandez, Ford, Sweat, Voloder, Cisneros, Davis, Pierre

That lack of offensive depth is really noticeable on the bench.

Fan XI

You all are more confident than I am that Espinoza will stop starting every game. Winger is a mess. Otherwise, we are basically on the same path. However, you all have Russell starting, probably just not knowing if that limp was a cramp or an actual injury. Shelton only got a single vote at winger (and I promise I don’t vote). Who voted with me?

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 (92.0%), Pulskamp (8.0%)

Defenders: Isimat-Mirin/Ndenbe (88.0%), Fontas (86.0%), Zusi (78.0%), Ford (26.0%), Pierre (18.0%), Voloder/Sweat (6.0%)

Midfielders: Walter (100%), Duke (82.0%), Hernandez (54.0%), Espinoza (36.0%), Davis (16.0%), Tzionis/Rosell (6.0%)

Wingers: Russell (84.0%), Salloi/Tzionis (50.0%), Cisneros (10.0%)

Strikers: Vujnovic (68.0%), Shelton (18.0%), Tzionis (8.0%), Salloi (6.0%)

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