Another week and, of course, another addition to the injury report for Sporting Kansas City. Before they hit the road and head to Frisco to take on FC Dallas, let’s take a look at the injury report and how it effects things this weekend.
QUESTIONABLE - Alan Pulido (knee surgery), Tim Leibold (hamstring)
Official #SportingKC injury report:— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) March 16, 2023
OUT - Russell (hamstring), Kinda (knee), Ndenbe (hamstring), Ford (Achilles)
QUESTIONABLE - Tim Leibold (hamstring), Alan Pulido (knee)
Leibold is a new addition after subbing out of his first start last weekend LA. #DTID #SKCvDAL #SKCvFCD
Tim Leibold, after just one MLS start, is already on the injury report. All our hoping and praying he was just cramping was apparently pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. He’s officially listed as questionable. There are no other changes on the report, including Pulido remaining questionable.
Starting XI Predictions
Let’s just get to it. We have a lot of the same questions as last week.
Will Tim Leibold Play?
Leibold popping up on the injury report after one start is a bit of a concern. I suppose I was lying to myself assuming it was just cramping in his first start. With the new, more cautious Peter Vermes, I imagine we don’t see them risk Leibold if he’s not 100 percent ready. Welcome back to the starting lineup Ben Sweat. Please don’t pull a Portland!
Is Alan Pulido Finally Ready?
Before the season started PV said that Pulido may be ready by the season opener (Kinda too). Then, as the season got closer, he said maybe by the home opener. All those dates have past, but Pulido has to get on the field at some point. He’s been a full participant for a few weeks now in practice. The game state may have a factor in if he plays, but I’d love to at least see him on the bench and have the option to bring him in.
Plus, in Dallas, there could be a strong Mexican National Team contingent that would be excited to see him return there. No need to save him for a home game return.
Can Radoja Start?
Nemanja Radoja got 23 minutes as a sub against the LA Galaxy. If he can go until at least halftime, I have to think you start him at the #6 spot and push Remi Walter up in the midfield. Then whenever Radoja has to come off (if he does at all), then you put Remi in that spot and add another #8 in the midfield.
Also, according to my wife’s weather report, we are in for some good weather in Texas.
Felipe or Roger?
Hopefully this is for who is first off the bench, and not starting. Roger Espinoza has been stout defensively this season and that may be needed against a prolific attack. If Sporting KC are ahead, then subbing in Roger makes sense. If they are chasing a goal, I think Felipe Hernandez makes all the sense in the world.
If this is a question of who starts because Radoja isn’t ready, I think we all know it will be Roger, but I’d like to see it be Felipe.
Tzionis or Shelton?
When healthy, it’s been Khiry Shelton every time. He adds something defensively, there is no doubt. But the right side of the attack is a bit of a blackhole, as numerous pundits, including our own Robert Rusert, have pointed out (seriously go read his breakdown, it’ll help you understand what’s happening).
I share the sentiment of many of the commentors here on TBT, we know who Khiry is. We still haven’t seen enough of Marinos Tzionis to know who he is. In the little over a year he’s been with the club, he has just seven league starts (but 30 appearances and only 883 minutes). Sure, playing him on the right is a bit out of position, but it’s a chance he can use his preferred right foot to cross balls into Willy Agada after he beats his man to the endline.
Dallas looked suspect at times against the Vancouver Whitecaps and SKC need to press them into mistakes since they lost veteran Matt Hedges in free agency.
The Rest of the Lineup
- Pulskamp is the starting keeper (at least for now). The question now, is Tim Melia even the backup? He’s been healthy (according to the injury reports) but hasn’t even pushed Kendall McIntosh out of that spot.
- I don’t think Graham Zusi is in any jeopardy of losing his starting job, but if Vermes is playing it defensive with Espinoza/Shelton on the right, maybe he considers getting Kayden Pierre in there to attack the space Russell would usually be in. I doubt it, but it’s a thought. Zusi mostly just plays long switches, but the left is overloaded anyways. Someone on the right needs to attack and Pierre has the pace to get back if it’s turned over when he’s up the field.
Rest of the 20: McIntosh, Shelton, Leibold, Hernandez, Espinoza, Rindov, Duke, Pierre, Pulido
When I make these graphics, I can’t seem to decide if I’m predicting what PV will do or what I want. This feels like a combination of the two. Whatever lineup is out there, I hope we see a lot more of the 4-3-3 in attack and 4-5-1 in defense, than the 4-4-2 in defense we see against the Portland Timbers and the Colorado Rapids, as that didn’t seem to work great.
The votes against Voloder starting are greatly diminished this week. I still find it interesting the few people voting against him are more going for Castellanos than Rindov considering the time each has been with the team. I think Rindov is 3rd on the depth chart at CB right now.
You all not knowing the Leibold injury news skews that voting a bit in that position.
Additionally, an injured Johnny Russell is getting more starting votes than Khiry. I’ll leave him in the poll since we don’t really know when Johnny is returning, but I did remove Ndenbe last week after the news that he’s likely out a couple months.
Here is the tally of your fan vote. Starters in italics with guys at five or so percent showing up with their tallies.
Goalkeepers: Pulskamp (96.3%), Melia (3.7%)
Defenders: Fontas (96.3%), Voloder (92.6%), Leibold (90.1%), Zusi (69.1%), Pierre (28.4%), Sweat (16.0%), Castellanos (4.9%), Rindov (2.5%)
Midfielders: Thommy (98.8%), Walter (98.8%), Radoja (63.0%), Hernandez (21.0%), Espinoza (14.8%)
Wingers: Salloi (96.3%), Tzionis (54.3%), Russell (18.5%), Shelton (16.0%), Duke (8.6%), Agada (4.9%)
Strikers: Agada (87.7%), Pulido (11.1%)