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MLS: Sporting Kansas City at D.C. United

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Sporting KC v DC United: Preview, Predictions & How to Watch

Maybe the most important game in Sporting KC’s efforts not to ‘win’ the Wooden Spoon go down Tuesday.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC vs. D.C. United

When: Tuesday, September 13th, 2022 at 7:30 PM CT (Kickoff 7:38)

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

How to Watch/Stream: 38 the Spot | ESPN+ (out of market) | SportingKC.com & SKC App (in market) | Sporting One App on Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV

Just four games remain in Sporting Kansas City’s tumultuous 2022 campaign. Their run at the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs isn’t technically over, but for all intents and purposes they are out of it. Two straight (winnable) draws have left them rooting for an incredibly unlikely set of circumstances needing to play out. However, there are still lots of things left to play for. First, to not finish last (update below), but more importantly to see who should be here and who should be gone ahead of the 2023 season.

They welcome to town D.C. United, who they haven’t played since Wayne Rooney was playing for them instead of coaching them, back in 2019. United won that game 1-0 at home. In an effort to find photos for this story, I was looking through the editor and it was filled with name such as: Benny Feilhaber, Yohan Croizet, Seth Sinovic and Botond Barath (hence why we have the tiny photo of Russel above). It’s wild how different this team is from the 2019 team.

D.C. are currently in last place in the entire league, which seems like a good transition to the race to the bottom.

Wooden Spoon Standings:

Of these teams, only Houston and D.C. United have been eliminated from the playoffs (you read that right, 27th San Jose is still alive while 26th is out). Almost all these teams will certainly be eliminated this week with many teams playing three times over the course of the week before the international break.

If Sporting KC can hold off United, or better yet win, they should put themselves in a much more comfortable place to avoid finishing dead last in all of Major League Soccer.

United’s Recent Form

If we go back further than just the most recent five games, D.C. United find themselves 1-4-3 in their last eight and having to go back to the end of July to find a second win against Orlando City.

What’s new for the D.C. since last season?

This list is probably too long, so let’s just hit the highlights. The club entered the season with head coach Hernan Losada but he got the axe and has since been replaced by former player Wayne Rooney.

IN: United have made an astronomical 20 moves since the 2021 season ended. Just in the summer window they made eight moves in, most notably signing Premier League striker Christian Benteke from Crystal Palace (England). They also traded for MLS forward Miguel Barry (Columbus Crew), goalkeeper David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake) and acquired midfielder Victor Pálsson from FC Schalke 04 (Germany).

Perhaps their best acquisition was forward Taxi Fountas via transfer from Rapid Vienna (Austria). He’s been quite the goal scorer (see below) and when Sporting KC center back Andreu Fontas scored in back-to-back games he earned the nickname “Taxi.”

OUT: There is a big list of players going out as well as they also sent out 20 players (though guys like Jon Kempin ended up on both lists because MLS is weird). Before the season D.C. finally broke the Dom Dwyer trade record from SKC to Orlando when they sent Paul Arriola to FC Dallas for $2 million in General Allocation Money (*Lewis Morgan sort of broke it earlier this same offseason, but it’s complicated).

The team also traded away jack-of-all-trades Julian Gressel during the summer to the Vancouver Whitecaps and defender Kevin Paredes was sold for big bucks to Wolfburg (Germany). Beyond that, there are a ton of names, but you don’t have time for all that (unless you do — here is the full list).

Injuries/Availability*

Sporting KC

OUT - Alan Pulido (knee surgery), Gadi Kinda (SEI - knee surgery), Tim Melia (hamstring), Logan Ndenbe (Healthy and Safety Protocols)

QUESTIONABLE - Graham Zusi (quad)

*This has been updated based on the official injury report.

DC United

OUT - Adrien Perez (foot), Brad Smith (knee), Brendan Hines-Ike (foot), Taxi Fountas (head)

QUESTIONABLE - None

Discipline Watch for Sporting KC

Suspended Next Yellow Card: Kortne Ford

[Update: Espinoza was removed for good behavior... let that sentence sink in.]

Stats

Sporting KC

Goals: Johnny Russell (8), Daniel Salloi (6), Willy Agada (5), Remi Walter (3), Roger Espinoza, Erik Thommy, Andreu Fontas, Felipe Hernandez (2), Marinos Tzionis, Graham Zusi (1)

Assists: Felipe Hernandez, Cam Duke, Daniel Salloi, Roger Espinoza (3), Ben Sweat, Remi Walter, Graham Zusi, Willy Agada (2), Uri Rosell, Khiry Shelton, Kayden Pierre (1)

DC United

Goals: Taxi Fountas (11), Ola Kamara (9), Michael Estrada (4), Steve Birnbaum (2), Six with one (1)

Assists: Julian Gressel (7), Chris Durkin (5), Estrada (4), Fountas, Nigel Robertha, Kimarni Smith (3), Andy Najar, Drew Skundrich (2), Six with one (1)

Starting XI Predictions

With bodies dropping like flies a midweek game becomes a little tougher to know what Vermes might do. You’d expect Roger Espinoza would get a start after not starting on the weekend. There are only two healthy fullbacks, so that answers that question (unless the Robert Voloder at LB experiment jumps to a new high). I’d expect only one change to the Starting XI in Espinoza.

Kortne Ford will just be allowed to rejoin the team on Tuesday, so I doubt he is immediately starting, though he could be on the bench.

Predictions

A victory over D.C. United would put Sporting KC seven points clear of the Wooden Spoon. Not a total that couldn’t be made up, but it’d feel a lot better. If I were them, I’d play like my season depended on it (because it’s the only thing to play for at this point).

United are 3-10-2 on the road this year, but they’ve shown signs of life going 1-0-2 in their last three with Rooney taking over. On short rest, even with homefield advantage, it feels like anything other than a lock for Kansas City. SKC’s stretch run isn’t favorable either (Minnesota United, Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas). So winning this is a must to avoid relegation the dreaded last place finish, but a draw isn’t the end of the world.

1-1 Draw

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