Sporting Kansas City are preparing to host FC Dallas twice in the coming weeks. Once this Saturday in the MLS regular season, and again on May 10th in the 4th round of the US Open Cup. No better time than now to starting figuring out how to win again.
OUT - Alan Pulido (knee surgery), Gadi Kinda (knee surgery), Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (concussion, facial fracture), Kayden Pierre (USYNT Camp), Ozzie Cisneros (USYNT Camp)
QUESTIONABLE - None
Official #SportingKC Injury/Availability Report:— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) April 27, 2022
OUT - Pulido (knee), Kinda (knee), Isimat-Mirin (facial fracture & concussion)
QUESTIONABLE - None
Not listed are Kayden Pierre and Ozzie Cisneros, but I believe they are still with the @USYNT #SKCvFCD
As was to be expected, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin is out. Thankfully no one else new is on the report.
Starting XI Predictions
Let’s start with the ‘must change’ because of injuries and then move on to the ‘would like to change’ because of poor play.
Who are your Starting Center Backs?
When talking to SKC II coach Benny Feilhaber the other day, he made it pretty clear that the guys getting loaned to the second team weren’t quite ready for MLS action. So with that in mind, that leaves us three other healthy CBs to choose from (sorry Kaveh!): Andreu Fontas, Kortne Ford and Robert Voloder.
For me, part of this is easy. Kortne Ford is the only ‘like for like’ replacement for Isi (not that they are the same, but they are right footed) at right center back. He’s athletic (look at some of those recovery runs he made) and he seems to have a pretty good long passing game in his toolbox (though there were a few shaky short passes he’ll have to work on).
Next to Ford, there is a little more of a question. Fontas is the veteran and was the SKC Defensive Player of the Year last year. However, he’s not been quite as sharp in 2022 and Robbie Voloder acquainted himself well on zero notice subbing in for Isi. It probably doesn’t hurt that Voloder and Ford have been paired together in practice all season.
With Fontas in a contract year and costing over $1 million per season, I think you need to see what you have in Voloder. He looks like the real deal in limited minutes and I’d expect him to only get better. Sports are a brutal sport and Fonti could be on his last ride with SKC.
The Offense has to Change
What is happening in practice that we aren’t seeing? It’s the only explanation I can come up with with the forward line of Daniel Salloi, Khiry Shelton and Johnny Russell remain unchanged. Shelton has had his well documented struggles. Salloi was mostly invisible against Columbus. Russell is the most consistent of the front three, but he can’t drag the whole team along with him.
There needs to be at least one change in the attack. For my money, Marinos Tzionis needs to be a starter to give him an extended look in the normal 4-3-3, maybe even in his preferred left wing spot. However, if he were the false 9 (with Salloi or Vujnovic moved to CF), I think that works too.
A front line of Tzionis, Salloi and Russell sounds dangerous and fun. Then you have Shelton on the bench for pace (or if the team is actually ahead to kill off a game with his [mostly] tireless work rate) and Nikola Vujnovic available for a more attacking CF option. PV could sub off whatever of the three starters isn’t performing instead of sticking with a plan that’s failing.
Enough with the Double Pivot
Maybe the team just needs more time in it, but it’s too defensive. It’s fine to shut down a game late but I think the team is more dangerous with two #8s getting into the attack (and defenses not knowing which one is coming) than one free ranging 10 when the team doesn’t really have a guy that plays quite like that.
Also, the passing triangles and spacing on the field has seemed messy in the double pivot. I think a team needs a true #10 and perhaps pacier wingers/wide midfielders to make that work better. Plus, with Uri Rosell back and presumably available at the #6 spot, we all know that’s how Peter Vermes prefers to play and how everyone should be more comfortable out there.
As for what the third midfielder is with Rosell and Walter, I’d like to see either Felipe Hernandez or Cam Duke. Roger Espinoza has played in all nine games and started eight and while I think he’s been mostly fine, someone more creative needs to be in there to shuttle the ball from the back, through the midfield, to the attack.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Fontas, Espinoza, K. Rad, Shelton, Vujnovic, Sweat, Duke, [empty]
Last week there were only three loans to SKC II. With Pierre and Cisneros away on international duty, that might continue. However, SKC II are back at home (also against Dallas — North Texas SC) on Sunday, so maybe whoever doesn’t play can get some time with the second team. I’m open to this all the way up to players like Vujnovic and Duke if they aren’t featured.
Our lineups are nearly identical. The only change is you all have Vujnovic over Tzionis at CF, but it’s a little bit of a misnomer because Tzionis has a combined 89.8% of the vote, it’s just spread over three spots, so the desire for him to start is strong.
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 (85.7%), Pulskamp (14.3%)
Defenders: Ford (98.0%), Ndenbe (89.8%), Zusi (83.7%), Voloder (73.5%), Fontas (34.7%), Pierre (8.2%)
Midfielders: Walter (91.8%), Rosell (63.3%), Hernandez (53.1%), Tzionis (38.8%), Duke (26.5%), Espinoza (24.5%)
Wingers: Russell (98.0%), Salloi (69.4%), Tzionis (28.6%)
Strikers: Vujnovic (55.1%), Tzionis (22.4%), Shelton (12.2%), Salloi (10.2%)
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