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Sporting KC Injury Update and Starting XI Predictions Versus LAFC

The injury report has some familiar names but one question mark as SKC head on the road to California.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City don’t quite look like themselves. Some saw offensive improvements versus Nashville SC, and while that may have been true, I just saw shot after shot being fired towards the Kansas City goal. Things don’t get any easier on Sunday as Sporting KC go onto national television against first place LAFC.

Injury/Availability Updates

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

QUESTIONABLE - Uri Rosell (thigh)

Starting XI Predictions

Still not quite healthy and no Gadi Kinda return in sight.

More Roger at the 6?

This week, I made the case as to why Roger Espinoza may be the replacement this team needs at the 6 with Jose Mauri now officially gone and Uri Rosell still questionable. He’s not the long-term starter, but he may be asked to step up again.

A few factors to keep in mind. In the post-game presser, Peter Vermes said Roger was plugged in at the 6 for Uri who was a late scratch because he didn’t want to make two changes. That seemed to indicate first that Cam Duke was already set to start as an 8 and he didn’t want to move Remi Walter back (and someone else further up in the midfield).

This is interesting and it’s been a steady rotation in the middle. I’d guess it’s not off the table for Remi to play the 6, but maybe look for Felipe Hernandez and Walter together with Roger further back if Uri can’t go.

Shelton’s Getting Benched, Right?

After the late loss to Nashville, PV wasn’t pleased and indicated some changes would be needed. Breaking down the goals, Khiry Shelton seemed especially culpable on the first set piece goal allowed. My colleague Thad Bell said he isn’t convinced Shelton is healthy on a recent Shades of Blue podcast, and that may explain why he doesn’t look like the 2021 version of himself. I think the effort issue alone sends him to the bench, the question is who replaces him?

Who Should Start at Striker?

When it hasn’t been Khiry Shelton it’s been Nikola Vujnovic. It’s possible he earns his way into more of those minutes but there are two more intriguing options I’d like to explore. Both of which include Marinos Tzionis starting.

Option 1: Tzionis as a False 9

When he came on late against Nashville he was playing as a bit of a #10 in the midfield. Alan Pulido has previously been described as a 9.5, a bit of a false nine that likes to combine in the midfield. I could definitely see that as a trait from Tzionis. Putting him out there for a sustained amount of time with both Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell could be a boon as well. My only concern is him holding up to physical center back play.

Option 2: Tzionis on the Left, Daniel at CF

Peter Vermes was asked about Tzionis playing more in the midfield, as mentioned above, during media availability this week by the KC Star’s, Daniel Sperry. PV seemed to knock down that idea, though not rule it out.

“I asked PV if he felt that Tzionis could play in Kinda’s spot to provide a spark there until Kinda is back,” began Sperry. “While he said that he feels comfortable with him across all four attacking spots, he really likes him coming inside from the left.”

If he wants him on the left, put Salloi in the middle. Sure, he’ll mostly want to get on his right foot, but Salloi has definitely scored with his left too. Despite all this talk, it’ll probably just be Shelton. The game state may call for some long balls over the top with his pace and he’s troubled LAFC before (until they troubled him by sending him to the hospital on a play where no card was given).

I think he heads to the bench and despite what Vermes was saying, I like Tzionis in the middle of the pitch the most so far, if nothing to see another sweet dummy like the one he left for Daniel last week. His best position is probably the left, but they can always just rotate more freely this way too.

Ben Sweat is Getting Benched, Right?

Last Saturday, when Ben Sweat made the final pass that led to the Remi goal, I said something to the effect of ‘this just earned him a bunch more starts.’ But outside of that, I didn’t think Sweat was great. Or even good. He got beat a bunch and he actually had the silly turnover that led to the foul that setup the first set piece goal.

Logan Ndenbe needs another chance to start. He stopped a dangerous opportunity as soon as he subbed on last week and that backline needs some pace!

Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Voloder, Espinoza, Ford, Shelton, Vujnovic, Sweat, [empty], [empty]

With Sporting on the road, they should leave some guys home to fill out that SKC II roster (not that they need to, but for their development I want them to). I’m guessing it’s back and forth for Pulskamp and McIntosh on starts, so Kendall is up. Plus Ozzie Cisneros, Jake Davis, Kaveh Rad and Kayden Pierre should keep seeing minutes. I wouldn’t mind seeing Robert Voloder too (but then Rad probably needs to travel). With Aljaz Dzankic going down last week, they need another CB for the second team. Let’s see what Voloder is made of!

Fan XI

Ndenbe with 100% of the vote! You clearly saw what I saw on Saturday, Ben Sweat being beaten over and over. There is a case that Cam Duke left him out to dry a bit, but I saw poor play out of him before he was partnering with Duke in prior games (and after Duke subbed off in that game).

Overall, the voting is flipped on it’s head. You all agree that Tzionis should be starting. He even got enough votes to be a starter in the midfield while also getting plenty on the wing and even one at striker. However, you all have Vujnovic there, but there is enough of a split wanting to see changes that Salloi scored ahead of Shelton there too.

If it’s the same 11 guys starting, I’d be stunned.

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 (88.6%), Pulskamp (9.1%)

Defenders: Ndenbe (100%), Zusi (90.9%), Isimat-Mirin (88.6%), Fontas (79.5%), Ford (18.2%), Voloder (11.4%), Duke (6.8%)

Midfielders: Walter (93.2%), Hernandez (81.8%), Tzionis (43.2%), Duke (27.3%), Espinoza (25.0%), Rosell (20.5%), Davis (6.8%)

Wingers: Russell (93.2%), Salloi (68.2%), Tzionis (31.8%)

Strikers: Vujnovic (65.9%), Salloi (20.5%), Shelton (13.6%)

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