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Sporting KC Injury Update and Starting XI Predictions Versus Vancouver

A new injury is on the report, but as suspected, a few fell off after returns last weekend.

SOCCER: NOV 20 MLS Cup Playoffs - Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Sporting Kansas City Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sporting Kansas City are back in action after stopping their two game skid with a home win against Real Salt Lake last weekend. They will look for the first point(s) on the road as they head to Canada to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps, who just so happen to have the worst record in the MLS Western Conference.

Injury/Availability Updates

OUT - Alan Pulido (knee surgery), Gadi Kinda (knee surgery), Jose Mauri (unavailable)

QUESTIONABLE - Uri Rosell (hamstring), Kortne Ford (ankle)

Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton all fall off the report after returning last game. I still have questions (we’ll get to those), but they are available for selection. Uri Rosell’s questionable, but it sounds a lot more like an ‘out’ talking to PV today.

Let’s talk about Jose Mauri for a second. I hadn’t been listing him on here, but he is on the official availability report. I hadn’t listed him because I expected what Peter confirmed for me today. He’s “unavailable” because the team is trying to move him in a way that doesn’t hurt their salary budget. If they cut him, his money is guaranteed. Sure, it frees up a senior roster spot and international roster spot, and it may eventually come to that, but they get no salary relief. If they wait until the transfer window and send him out on a free transfer, they can clear that cap space.

Starting XI Predictions

Finally, some players to pick from.

Does the Turf Impact the Lineup?

All the teams in the Cascadia region play on turf. I don’t think you’ll find a single soccer player in the world who would choose that over grass. Vermes was asked about the turf and kind of brushed it aside in today’s press conference, but I think it matters. On this week’s Sporting KC Show, Jacob Peterson talked about how tough it is to play on and how hard it is on your body.

Because of that, Sporting KC have three forwards coming off injuries to their legs. Most notably, Johnny Russell had aggravations in both hamstrings. Because of that, I think it’s worth considering bringing some of these guys off the bench. I’m not sure it’ll happen, but it’s something to watch.

Shelton the Starter?

Going into the season, after the Alan Pulido injury, Khiry Shelton was anointed the starting center forward. Competition was brought in — in the form of Nikola Vujnovic — to compete with him. However, Khiry was hurt when Nikola arrived, so this will be the first game they are both available for selection at the same time, unless you count Khiry’s 30-minute cameo against RSL, though I think he wasn’t really fit enough to start that game.

I think Khiry may ultimately take back his starting spot, but I have some question if he’s ready to start, and therefore play the bulk of the minutes. Especially on the aforementioned turf. I’d guess Nikola gets one more run out before Shelton reassumes that role.

Who Plays Left Back?

Ben Sweat finally got his first 90 minutes at left back, just in time for Logan Ndenbe to return from a midweek game with the Belgian U21 National Team. Talking to Ben Sweat today, he sounded like he was ready to go again. With Ndenbe coming off short rest and international travel, I think Sweat gets one more chance to prove he should be starting. He’s been very good at times and shaky at others. The same could be said for Ndenbe. It sounds like a season long competition until someone separates themselves, but I expect Sweat to get one more crack at it, though he may have to sub off on that turf.

No Other Changes

Felipe Hernandez didn’t do anything to lose that starting spot to Cam Duke in my eyes and despite their age, I think Roger Espinoza and Graham Zusi are playing well. Maybe the turf (apparently this is a story about turf...) impacts what Vermes decides to do, but I don’t foresee any other changes. Plus if you bench Zusi, you lose that beautiful cross field switch he killed Vancouver with in the playoffs. That should be on again if the Caps stay in their three-back setup.

Despite ‘turf-talk’ I’m not switching anything up, but I’ll understand if PV does.

Rest of the 20: McIntosh, Voloder, Davis, K. Rad, Tzionis, Shelton, Ndenbe, [empty], [empty]

One other thing to watch as the team get’s healthier is who is missing from the bench. Last weekend they couldn’t afford to miss anyone really, so only John Pulskamp went on loan to SKC II. I hope to see him joined by a few others who aren’t getting into the game but need minutes (Cisneros and Pierre would be good starts) against Minnesota United’s second team on Sunday. I’d even be open to a short bench to get some minutes for guys. When Ford is healthy, send one of those center backs off too. I suspect it’d be Kaveh Rad, but I do really want to see Voloder in action more.

Fan XI

At first I was shocked at the low votes for a few players before I realized my colleague didn’t add them back to the poll after their spell of unavailability (Ndenbe and Tzionis specifically). So, results are skewed.

Our lineups are identical with the only ‘difference’ being Duke and Espinoza were tied at exactly 50%. I think Cam will keep pushing to get into the lineup, but I’d actually guess he’s closer to unseating Hernandez than Espinoza. With just a single game a week, Roger seems to be fine. It continues this way until a May 18th game against the Colorado Rapids. Will PV start Roger and Zusi every game until then (assuming no injuries)? I wouldn’t put it past him.

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 (100%)

Defenders: Isimat-Mirin/Sweat (97.4%), Fontas (94.7%), Zusi (89.5%), Ford (28.9%), Voloder (15.8%), Pierre (10.5%), Duke (5.3%)

Midfielders: Walter (100%), Hernandez (97.4%), Espinoza/Duke (50.0%)

Wingers: Salloi (100%), Russell (97.4%)

Strikers: Vujnovic (63.2%), Shelton (36.8%)

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