Sporting Kansas City return from the international break (which isn’t really, fully over) looking much healthier than when they left. Now let’s see if they can find their form before they take on the New England Revolution on national television on Sunday afternoon.
OUT - Alan Pulido (knee surgery), Gadi Kinda (SEI - knee surgery), Ozzie Cisneros (hamstring), Daniel Salloi (Int. Duty — Hungary), Marinos Tzionis (Int. Duty — Cyprus)
QUESTIONABLE - Jake Davis (adductor), Nikola Vujnovic (calf)
#SportingKC Injury/Availability Report:— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) June 11, 2022
OUT - Salloi (Int. Duty), Tzionis (Int. Duty), Cisneros (hamstring), Pulido (knee), Kinda (knee)
QUESTIONABLE - Davis (adductor), Vujnovic (calf)#SKCvNE
The report looks a lot better and will, hopefully, only look better next week when Salloi and Tzionis return from international duty, though they both have a fourth game in the window still to come and extensive travel.
An interesting note is at Friday’s press conference, Vermes said, “Nikola [Vujnovic] is not [doing better].” Yet he still just remains questionable, which he has been for weeks. It seems to me he’s out and/or there are just mind games happening with the injury report.
Vermes on injury updates for Russell, Shelton, Zusi, Vujnovic: "Johnny is probably ahead of all those guys. Zues is doing better. Khiry is doing better. Nikola is not. Everything else you guys know on the report is accurate."— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) June 10, 2022
No report out quite yet that I've seen. #SportingKC
Starting XI Predictions
At least there are a few choices, though they are still limited.
Let’s Talk Forwards
There still isn’t much to pick from here as three forwards are out injured (Vujnovic, Cisneros, Pulido) and two are on international duty (Salloi, Tzionis). That leaves just two who aren’t on the report: Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton. Pencil them in as starters at RW and CF respectively (though I’m going to flip that).
Since there are no other healthy forwards and SKC have been more successful in a 4-3-3, I imagine they’ll trot out someone like Cam Duke at left wing, even if it’s not his best spot.
One thing I wouldn’t rule out is Russell playing CF, where he’s looked pretty good and Shelton playing RW where he is much stronger in my opinion. Plus Shelton can play “hold-up winger” by running into space on the right or just getting long balls pinged in that direction. The more I write, the more I like this idea.
What does the midfield look like?
Uri Rosell hasn’t had a strong 2022. Yet, when he’s healthy, he’s mostly started at defensive midfielder. That hasn’t stopped Peter Vermes from pulling him at halftime or early though. I’m hoping that someone has been developing at that role in the last two weeks we haven’t seen KC, though I have my doubts. If Felipe Hernandez or Remi Walter were deployed as the #6, I think it’s a plan worth looking at.
Rosell is who he is at this point in his career and I’m not certain he’s good enough to start. That said, I bet we see him and then it’d be my preference to have Hernandez and Walter ahead of him with Roger available off the bench.
There has been a rotating door at right-back (though Kayden Pierre didn’t play nearly enough for my liking). With Graham Zusi off the injury report, and Cam Duke likely needed at forward, Zusi is almost surely the starter. Ben Sweat out of position at right back was okay defensively but added virtually nothing to the offense. However, if Zusi can’t go 90, give me Pierre as his off the bench replacement. That kid is exciting!
Center Back Pairing?
It’s been a rotating cast at center back with four guys being starter level quality: Kortne Ford, Andreu Fontas, Robert Voloder and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin. They are all now healthy at the same time, so it’s time to pick starters.
Kortne Ford is a sure-fire starter. No one is unseating him right now.
My preference would be to keep developing Robert Voloder and if the season continues to go downhill, I think there is a case to be made. That isn’t what I expect to happen at least in this game. I think it’ll be Isimat-Mirin starting with Ford. At times I’ve thought they were like-for-like type players. However, I think that was more of an illusion of Isi looking super athletic next to Fontas (no offense to Andreu, but who doesn’t). In actuality, Isi has shown he’s very good at playing with his feet and he can allow Ford to do the more athletic RCB role.
And of course, Logan Ndenbe at LB and Tim Melia in goal, though John Pulskamp has shown good progress with the second team and when playing for Sporting KC in the US Open Cup.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Vazquez, Rosell, Sweat, Pierre, Fontas, Voloder, K. Rad, [1 empty]
Still not a full bench and I could easily see Kaveh Rad and maybe even someone like Robert Voloder going to the second team for some playing time. Also, Julian Vazquez is up on loan to the first team again. He’s yet to get on the field quite yet.
The vote is a little out of whack because international absences weren’t accounted for. The defense is similar to mine except a tie for the second CB spot between Fontas and Voloder. The midfield matches my guess at what will be right (Rosell at the 6), but not what I want. And forward is where it gets whacky.
Starters in italics and anyone over 5 percent is reference here.
Goalkeepers: Melia (82.6%), Pulskamp (15.2%)
Defenders: Ford/Ndenbe (87.0%), Zusi (43.5%), Fontas/Voloder (39.1%), Pierre/Isimat-Mirin (28.3%), Duke (26.1%), Sweat (13.0%)
Midfielders: Walter (87.0%), Hernandez (65.2%), Rosell (54.3%), Espinoza (50.0%), Duke (26.1%), Tzionis (8.7%)
Wingers: Russell (91.3%), Salloi (63.0%), Tzionis (19.6%), Duke (13.0%), Shelton (8.7%)
Strikers: Shelton (39.1%), Vujnovic (32.6%), Salloi/Tzionis (8.7%), Russell (6.5%)
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