There are always injuries in soccer. In any sport really. Sporting Kansas City fans know this as well as anybody. They’ve had entire seasons tripped up by injuries to superstar players like Alan Pulido, Gadi Kinda, Felipe Gutierrez and others.
The injury bug has struck again, but this time it’s not to a presumed starter.
On Monday, Sporting KC announced that Khiry Shelton underwent successful surgery for a high ankle sprain. The injury is expected to keep him out of action for eight to 10 weeks. Eight weeks from today is early April with 10 carrying it closer to the end of that month. The season starts in a couple weeks on the road against the Houston Dynamo.
The news does come as a bit of a surprise as Shelton picked up this injury in the 3-3 draw to Charlotte FC. Shelton had come on as a new shift of players rolled out in the second half. Khiry only lasted five minutes before being replaced by SKC II winger Sebastian Cruz.
Sporting KC’s Winger Depth
Khiry Shelton has often been the first winger off the bench for Sporting KC, even to the dismay of some fans yearning to see younger, unproven options take the field. Now those players will get their chance.
Sporting KC have a trio of young wingers who look to be up next on the depth chart behind presumed starters Daniel Salloi (LW) and Johnny Russell (RW). Alenis Vargas, who was just signed on a permanent transfer after spending 2023 on loan with SKC II, could be up next behind Russell now. He was a star for the IIs last year scoring six goals and adding five assists.
Outside of Vargas, U-22 Initiative signing Marinos Tzionis has spent time on the right wing, though he’s believed to primarily be a left winger. Additionally, last year’s first round SuperDraft pick, Stephen Afrifa, has emerged as a candidate on the wing this preseason (also lining up to the left so far). Before moving to center forward in college, Afrifa played out wide and has done so extensively this preseason.
Outside of the trio of young wingers, there are a few midfielders capable of playing out wide too. Erik Thommy and the recently signed Memo Rodriguez have spent time wide left at previous clubs. Shelton primarily plays on the right, but I wouldn’t rule them out. Even Remi Walter played right wing in some desperate times, but the team likely has better options now than playing the midfielder out of position.
As far as making a signing, right wing is the place I thought most logical that Sporting Kansas City add a Designated Player this offseason. With Monday’s signing of third string goalkeeper Ryan Schewe, the club only has two open roster spots left. It’s hard to imagine adding just another ‘depth’ piece when the team is down to their last two moves.
Whatever happens, the KC Soccer Journal will be there to let you know how things play out. Preseason resumes this Saturday against USL Championship side, Miami FC.