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Russell Injury Update and a 3-1 Sporting KC Preseason Win

Highlights of all the Sporting Kansas City goals plus a Peter Vermes interview with updates on Russell, Leibold and signings.



Credit: Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City wrapped up their 2024 preseason with their first win over MLS competition in preseason since 2021. Sporting KC won 3-1 over Atlanta United, after falling behind 1-0 early, on the backs of a brace by Willy Agada and a goal from new signing Alenis Vargas.

Injury Updates

Sporting KC were missing both Johnny Russell and Tim Leibold from the lineup today. Both players have been involved in the other four preseason games, so that always leaves fans nervous when expected starters are missing. The good news is that Chief Soccer Officer and Manager, Peter Vermes, downplayed both injuries.

Leibold was said to have an “ear contusion” and Vermes was a little more vague on Russell, saying it was “a little bit of a knock.” The positive is that Leibold participated in an eight versus eight drill right after the Atlanta game and both Russell and Leibold are expected to fully participate in practice when it resumes on Tuesday back in Kansas City.

Both will be worth keeping an eye on in the lead up to the opener at the Houston Dynamo next weekend.

Preseason Lineups

As mentioned above, it was just Leibold and Russell missing from the ‘regular’ starters. Leibold was replaced by new signing Zorhan Bassong and Russell was replaced by Stephen Afrifa, who had primarily played on the left for an absent Daniel Salloi earlier in preseason. Salloi returned and had the shortest shift of everyone, going 45 minutes.

Salloi was replaced at halftime by Alenis Vargas but more subs weren’t made until the 61st minute when the following moves were made:

  • John Pulskamp for Tim Melia
  • Robert Castellanos for Dany Rosero
  • Willy Agada for Alan Pulido

In the 71st minute Memo Rodriguez replaced Erik Thommy and then the remaining six starters were subbed out to finish the game a few minutes later.

SKC Academy product, Jacob Bartlett, continued to get minutes with the backups over fully rostered player Danny Flores. The only other players on the roster who didn’t appear were Ozzie Cisneros (who hasn’t played at all in preseason), Chris Rindov, Ryan Schewe and the injured Khiry Shelton and Logan Ndenbe.

Vermes Postgame Interview

After the game, Peter Vermes spoke with Daniel Sperry of the KC Star and me. He covered quite a few topics. Outside of the injury updates mentioned above, he talked about a change in approach to player fitness, a lack of injuries this preseason, Florida versus Arizona for preseason, the team depth and of course, signings.

Perhaps the thing people want to know the most is when a signing is coming.

“Not sure yet,” started Vermes. “Obviously, we’re still looking and trying to make sure it’s the right fit. We could potentially still do somebody before this window closes but the objective is to either do it before this window closes or the summer window.”

The primary window closes on April 23rd and the secondary window is open from July 18th through August 14th.

Goal Highlights

Sporting KC provided some (mostly silent) video highlights, so we added some music to the SKC goals. The first two were scored off of penalty kicks by Willy Agada and the third and final goal was scored by Alenis Vargas and assisted by Felipe Hernandez.

Vermes said the PKs came from good buildup before the players were fouled. We can see Vargas is fouled to draw one PK but it’s not shown where third round pick, left back Jonathan Robinson, is tugged down to draw the other penalty.

Sporting KC open their season next weekend on the road against the Houston Dynamo. The game is available to watch on MLS Season Pass through Apple TV.

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