Sporting Kansas City are once again looking to rebound from a road defeat, this time to the Vancouver Whitecaps (their first win of the short season). Sporting KC will welcome Nashville SC to town, who are still on their multi-month season opening road trip before their stadium opens on May 1st.
OUT - Alan Pulido (knee surgery), Gadi Kinda (knee surgery), Jose Mauri (unavailable)
QUESTIONABLE - None
#SportingKC Availability Report:— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) April 7, 2022
OUT - Gadi Kinda (knee), Alan Pulido (knee), Jose Mauri (unavailable)
QUESTIONABLE - None
Kortne Ford and Uri Rosell officially removed from the report. It's the best report of the season. #SKCvNSH
It’s the best report since preseason with no questionable players after Kortne Ford and Uri Rosell are officially off the report. And I’ll leave this Tweet about Mauri here, in case you missed it last week.
Vermes confirmed that Jose Mauri is still on the roster because they are looking for a way to part ways that also help them with the salary budget.— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) March 31, 2022
Basically, if they cut him they get no relief. But if they wait until a transfer window they could get budget relief #SportingKC
Starting XI Predictions
Finally, some players to pick from.
Rosell is a Starter?
Last week, Uri Rosell made a bit of a surprise return. He put in 45 minutes against the Whitecaps at the defensive midfielder spot that was supposed to be his before he got hurt in the season opener against Atlanta United.
I thought he had a serviceable 45 where he didn’t make any mistakes (a huge improvement over that ATL game). However, after reading my colleague Robert Rusert’s piece about key passes, seeing Uri’s pass chart only connected to Felipe Hernandez and the team’s defenders, but not Walter or any of the forwards, made me wonder if he’s adding enough to the attack.
Ilie Sanchez was good about putting balls into channels or hitting long switches into the corner. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how much of that Remi Walter was doing from that position either. It’s early, but it’s something to watch. Since preseason, Peter seems to see Uri as the man at this spot, so we’ll see how he (hopefully) improves in the coming games.
Espinoza, Hernandez or Duke?
Remi Walter seems to be an unquestioned starter, and I’m good with that. He’s playing really well in my estimation outside of one turnover where a teammate put him in a bad spot. The question is, who starts at the other number 8 spot?
Last week was the first time since the opener where Vermes had to choose between Espinoza, Duke and Hernandez (sorry Jake Davis, I love your style, but you need more minutes with SKC II first, or at best will come off the bench). PV gave Hernandez his fifth start of the year (every game but the disastrous opener).
There are a lot of people clamoring for Cam Duke to start here and I get it. He’s the most like Gadi Kinda on the roster. But I’m not sure I’d start him. Hernandez played well and seems to be getting better. Kinda came on late and didn’t do much. I actually forgot he subbed on for several minutes. I’m glad he’s getting minutes, but off the bench is where I’d want him right now.
Felipe has given no reason not to start him as he keeps improving.
Who Plays Left Back?
It’s got to be Logan Ndenbe, right? I thought Ben Sweat was the worst starter last week. He is frustrating to watch at times. He had that one great ball over the top which arguably should have drawn a red card when Khiry Shelton was grabbed from behind in a clear DOGSO situation, but otherwise he had lots of turnovers and even was lax getting back on defense, which is what I would have guessed he was better at than Logan.
Ndenbe travelled a ton last week, going from Europe all the way to Vancouver after playing with the Belgium U21s. Here is to hoping he starts this week. If he does, I want to see more defensive recovery effort, particularly when SKC inevitably turns the ball over a time or two. I already see more flash from him going forward, just lock down that D.
No Other Changes
The forwards are finally healthy (outside of Pulido, though he’s progressing) and they’ve had a week of healthiness to practice together for basically the first time since preseason. Hopefully that means the connections and chemistry are that much tighter. Otherwise, despite the loss on a fluky goal, I thought Sporting played well.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Voloder, Espinoza, Ford, Tzionis, Vujnovic, Sweat, Pierre, Davis
Even though I’m including some SKC II guys, they play at home on Sunday, so being on the bench shouldn’t prohibit them from playing. I’m hopeful to see Pulskamp, Pierre and Davis (at least) all make that game. Maybe even someone like Robert Voloder could get his first start. Or Ford in a rehab start. Lots of possibilities at home for the second team.
You all saw it nearly exactly like I did. The only difference was Vujnovic got more votes than Shelton to start. Personally, I didn’t think Shelton was the issue on Saturday and I suspect he’ll get plenty more chances to prove that.
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 (88.2%), Pulskamp (11.8%)
Defenders: Isimat-Mirin (94.1%), Fontas (88.2%), Zusi/Ndenbe (79.4%), Sweat (20.6%), Ford/Pierre (11.8%), Duke (8.8%), Voloder (5.9%)
Midfielders: Walter (97.1%), Hernandez (82.4%), Rosell (41.2%), Espinoza (35.3%), Duke (29.4%), Tzionis/Davis (5.9%)
Wingers: Russell (100%), Salloi (85.3%), Tzionis (14.7%)
Strikers: Vujnovic (47.1%), Shelton (38.2%), Salloi (8.8%), Tzionis (5.9%)
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