Sporting Kansas City are heading to the road first to face Nashville SC, swing home for an Open Cup game, and then off to the Seattle Sounders. It doesn’t get easier, yet KC need to start finding results.
QUESTIONABLE - Jake Davis (adductor), Nikola Vujnovic (calf), Remi Walter (ankle)
Starting XI Predictions
As always, there are plenty of questions to answer.
There are no Available D-mids
With the Uri Rosell red card and the Remi Walter injury (obviously, he could still play), not to mention the early season departure of Jose Mauri, there are suddenly no players on the roster who play defensive midfielder, a position so pivotal to KC’s success (or failure). So someone is going to play out of position, let’s look at the options.
I mention Roger first not because I want him to play this spot, but because he’s been the player to step up when this situation has arisen before. I even made the case he maybe should be the guy to play this spot (even when Rosell and Walter are available). I think those points still stand and this is probably the most likely scenario.
The sample size is small, but this is perhaps my preference because he could emerge in this role long-term versus the others being short-term fixes. In the Open Cup game against FC Dallas and in an SKC II game, Hernandez was paired with Jake Davis in a double pivot midfield where they played beside each other behind a more traditional #10. It didn’t work.
But in the Open Cup game, after KC fell down 2-0, Davis moved forward and Hernandez handled this position alone and he played well. He’s much more dangerous going forward from this spot, is a capable passer (who also can be a bit conservative at times) and has the speed and athleticism to recover if something does go wrong. This is what I’d like to see happen.
We’ve seen Zusi cover here a little bit already last season. However, this probably depends more on who can play right back. Cam Duke should be free to move back to RB if needed to close the revolving door of Ben Sweat playing out of position there (I’d still prefer Kayden Pierre, but that seems like it’s not happening). Don’t rule Zusi out at d-mid, but it feels unlikely.
SKC have a wealth of center backs and Fontas is probably the most like Ilie Sanchez, who many teams have clamored for since he left. He is perhaps the best passer on the team, his positional awareness is usually a strength (though I’d argue he’s made quite a few bad steps forward this year) but he has his flaws. In particular, he’s even slower than Ilie. It could still work with the right CB pairing behind him but it seems unlikely but so was Felipe Hernandez playing the 9 last week.
Who are the Starting CBs?
Last week, Kortne Ford and Robert Voloder started and were benched at halftime. After the game, Peter Vermes said it was because he didn’t like what happened on the goal by Gustavo Bou. Perhaps after getting to watch the tape or via some revisionist history, in yesterday’s press conference PV said he partially did it because Ford was on a card.
I think that means we’ll see Ford back in the starting lineup, but Voloder may be relegated to the bench (or preferably to getting some minutes with SKC II versus not playing at all). I’d partner Nicolas Isimat-Mirin with him and think PV has liked that idea in the past (they paired together in the game Isi went out with his facial fracture and concussion after about five minutes). However, Fontas could be the guy too. I think Fontas is likely to be gone after 2022, so might as well see if the Isi/Ford pairing works.
Is Shelton Healthy?
Last weekend against the New England Revolution, Shelton was forced on as a first half sub because of the Walter injury and he didn’t look good. He looked like he still wasn’t fit/healthy. Vermes even said the plan was to play him no more than 45 minutes but his hand was forced.
In his stead, Felipe Hernandez played out of position and frankly, played pretty well. A commenter joked on this site that he had more shots than Shelton all season, which is wrong, but he only played less than a half a striker (he did have four to Shelton’s 11 for the year).
Overall, I’m not sure if Shelton will be back, but Daniel Salloi and Marinos Tzionis will be available, so at least there are three available forwards.
Ndenbe and Melia seem likely to stay the same.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Shelton, Sweat, Pierre, Fontas, Voloder, K. Rad, [2 empty]
Still a pretty thin bench.
Some small differences in our votes. You all suspect Shelton is healthy enough to start and obviously didn’t know that Walter would show up on an injury report. I heard multiple reports of him in a boot from the night of the game, so that never seems great.
Here is the tally of your fan vote. Starters in italics and anyone over five percent is referenced here.
Goalkeepers: Melia (91.2%), Pulskamp (8.8%)
Defenders: Ndenbe (94.1%), Isimat-Mirin (70.6%), Zusi/Ford (43.5%), Fontas (38.2%), Pierre (29.4%), Voloder (26.5%)
Midfielders: Hernandez (94.1%), Walter (67.6%), Espinoza (58.8%), Duke (55.9%), Tzionis (11.8%), Zusi (8.8%)
Wingers: Russell (88.2%), Salloi (85.3%), Tzionis/Duke (11.8%)
Strikers: Shelton (64.7%), Vujnovic (11.8%), Salloi/Tzionis/Russell (8.8%)
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