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The Blue Testament

Who Plays LB for Sporting KC with Everyone Hurt or Suspended against Philadelphia?

Ben Sweat is suspended. Everyone else is on the injury report. Something has to give.



Sporting Kansas City’s 2023 MLS season is off to a brutal start. They’ll enter the sixth week of the season without a win (0-3-2) and coming off a terrible 4-1 loss at home to the Seattle Sounders that was aided by a Ben Sweat red card. Because of that red card, and injuries to the other fullbacks on the roster (Pierre, Leibold and Ndenbe), there is a gaping hole at left back for this Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Union (it could be argued there was already a hole).

Let’s talk through some options on who should and could play left back.

Option 1: Cam Duke

Cameron Duke is an absolute jack-of-all-trades. In one game in 2022, he played both fullback positions and both winger spots. One game! And none of those are even his natural position, as he seems to operate at his best in one of the advanced midfield roles in the 4-3-3.

He may seem like the most likely candidate to step in and play for Ben Sweat, as he appeared to fill that role after the red card (and the third goal) when he came on and settled into that spot). If Duke is the answer, I’m fine with that. He’s an imperfect vessel for the role, but he’ll surely work hard, have the pace to get back and he’ll definitely add to the attack.

Option 2: Robert Voloder

Stay with me here. I know Voloder is a center back on a team that is short on starting quality center backs. However, he played a tiny bit of left back in 2022 and he’s definitely prone to get into the attack (do you see those nervously long runs from CB into the attack?).

From a defensive standpoint, this might be the most solid option. The team sort of settles into a back three at times anyways with alternating fullbacks getting forward. This would allow Graham Zusi to be the primary fullback pushing up the field and you’d essentially have three CBs staying home.

There are two other CBs who have been with the team for a bit now in second round pick Chris Rindov and, post-Kortne Ford injury signing, Robert Castellanos. However, there is also a new choice. South American Dany Rosero arrived in Kansas City over the weekend and reports are he could be available immediately. It’s a big ask, but don’t rule it out.

Options 3: Someone from SKC II

On this week’s For the Glory KC, Sheena asked me if a second team player could be loaned up and I incorrectly told her they couldn’t be. I was asked on the fly, and things have changed a bunch since MLS Next Pro has come into existence. I referenced the “Extreme Hardship Call-Up” rule that was in place for USL Championship loans (and still exists today), but there is a newer rule. The “Affiliate Short-Term Agreement.” Here is the full rule, from MLS themselves.

You may remember Sporting doing this last year with Julian Vazquez (no longer with SKC II). He never got into a game, but it was an option.

Now who can play left back on SKC II? Well, this past Sunday, Diedie Traore started there. He was formerly with the LA Galaxy, so it’s a possibility. The team also has homegrown fullbacks Coby Jones (LB), Leo Christiano (LB), Nati Clarke (RB) and Mikey Lenis (RB). All three of them are talented young players, though mostly only Jones and Christiano play on the left that I’ve seen. The team also has 25-year-old rookie right back Lucas Rosa.

I doubt any of these moves happen, but I won’t completely rule out one of them getting a loan just to have some fullback depth.

Option 4: Someone Gets Healthy

I mentioned right off the top of the story that Tim Leibold, Logan Ndenbe and Kayden Pierre were out with injury. It’s possible, they could just be healthy enough to play. It seems that Pierre and Ndenbe are still at least a few weeks out, but Leibold has been listed as questionable each week since he left the game against the LA Galaxy.

If anyone was going to bounce back, it’d be Leibold. If he’s healthy, he’s surely the guy.

Bonus Options

The simplest answer is probably the best one. If Leibold is healthy, he plays. If not him, it’ll probably be Voloder or Duke.

What would you like to see Sporting KC do? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

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