Sporting Kansas City are back in action on Saturday on the road against New York City FC. NYCFC are one of the leagues hottest teams having banged in 14 goals in their last three (!!!) games. SKC will likely need to feature a young lineup, at least in defense, to try to stop them.
QUESTIONABLE - None
Graham Zusi left early in last week’s game against FC Dallas holding the back of his leg. It could have been precautionary, but of course it turned out to be an injury. He is officially listed as having a “thigh” injury and this week Peter Vermes said, “he’s okay, he’s going to be out a little while. He just has a strain, we just have to make sure when he comes back he’s okay as opposed to rushing him.”
Vermes on Graham Zusi's injury: "He's okay, he's going to be out a little while. He just has a strain, we just have to make sure when he comes back he's okay as opposed to rushing him." #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) May 3, 2022
Starting XI Predictions
Another week, another injury to change the lineup. That said, it’s not the way I want young guys to get onto the field, but first Robi Voloder replaces Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and now a young player will get on at right back to replace an injured Graham Zusi.
So, Who Plays Right Back?
It’s basically down to Cam Duke and Kayden Pierre. I had this ‘debate’ tickling the back of my brain all week. But before I could get here to write it, my colleague Dan McCown basically said exactly what I was thinking. It’s Cam Duke. Go read his story to see why.
About the CF Spot
I keep writing in different possibilities. For the last few weeks I’ve advocated playing Marinos Tzionis as a false 9. That is clearly not going to happen and we all know Khiry Shelton’s name is going to be written in as the starter, but let me make another argument I haven’t made as anything other than a passing thought.
Start Daniel Salloi at CF. I do think his best spot is the left wing, but that’s probably Tzionis’ best spot too. Also, think back to the Dallas game. Both the PK Salloi earned and the goal he scored were from where a CF would be on the field. He had cut inside to get chopped down and he had did the same when Duke passed him the ball and he took what seemed to be too many touches — but was just the right amount — before tying the game against FCD.
Sure, he’s not as big and strong as Shelton. And maybe this tiny field needs Shelton to be out there and be big and strong and make those quick runs he posses (though he can do that from the wing). But I’d argue quick touches and passing in tight spaces, not Shelton’s strength, will be in higher demand on Citi Field Saturday. Just look at how NYCFC play the game.
The US Open Cup is Tuesday
Another factor to consider this week is that Sporting KC host FC Dallas in the 4th round of the US Open Cup on Tuesday, with just two days rest. Squad rotation could be a consideration. However, as much as Peter Vermes wants to chase trophies, I think he’ll stick with his primary starters in the regular season games and any rotation we see should come midweek.
I’m not sure what to do at this point. I think Remi Walter is a penciled in starter and should be. I’m not sure Uri Rosell has it anymore, but I think Peter will keep playing him for now. I want to see a lot more of Felipe Hernandez, but I will concede this could be a good game for Roger Espinoza to start (and I’m sure he will). The tight spaces leave room for physicality and that’s Roger’s game. He just needs to be subbed off when he’s slowing down, and it needs to happen promptly, instead of letting New York take advantage (and they will).
I don’t foresee any other lineup changes, including keeping on the Voloder and Ford pairing at CB.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Fontas, Hernandez, K. Rad, Shelton, Vujnovic, Sweat, Pierre, Davis
I suspect Jake Davis can return to the bench after getting a red card with SKC II this week, so he can’t play there. Plus Kayden Pierre will probably be needed in case a backup right back is needed in the game, then again, maybe PV will just fly with Sweat as the reserve fullback and let Pierre continue to develop with the II’s.
John Pulskamp continues to creep up the voting and he did just sign a new long-term deal with the team. The starting defense is starting to be settled as the votes swung further upwards for everyone. The midfield is very unsettled as is the attack. Tzionis doesn’t quite get 50% of the vote across his positions but center forward is still a place full of debate.
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 (84.4%), Pulskamp (15.6%)
Defenders: Ford (100%), Ndenbe (93.8%), Duke (90.6%), Voloder (78.1%), Fontas (21.9%), Pierre (12.5%)
Midfielders: Walter (96.9%), Rosell (65.6%), Hernandez (53.1%), Espinoza (43.8%), Tzionis (34.4%)
Wingers: Russell (100%), Salloi (81.3%), Tzionis (15.6%)
Strikers: Shelton (37.5%), Vujnovic (31.3%), Salloi (15.6%), Tzionis (12.5%)
The Blue Testament has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though The Blue Testament and SB Nation may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles. If you want to support the site, you can sign up for ESPN+ and we receive a small commission.