Sporting Kansas City will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss to a depleted Inter Miami side.
Sporting KC Injury/Availability Updates
OUT – Kortne Ford (Achilles surgery), Kayden Pierre (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE – Graham Zusi (hamstring), Stephen Afrifa (hamstring), Johnny Russell (ankle), Gadi Kinda (ankle)
Tzionis & Kinda back from international duty (but Kinda's still on the report – wild he went overseas with Israel injured).
Thommy, who missed practice from sickness, isn't on here.
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) September 14, 2023
As my Tweet says, there are fundamentally no changes in the report besides Marinos Tzionis. The U-22 winger was out last week for international duty and Cyprus played Tuesday so he should be back. Gadi Kinda shifts over from international duty right back to being injured. He was never healthy, and it started a bit of a controversy last week. He was only supposed to miss one game and he’s already missed three. Hopefully he’ll be back very soon, if not Saturday night. Watch out on social media to see if he even travels with the team.
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Starting XI Predictions
For two straight games, the starting lineup wasn’t in doubt. Sporting KC returned from the Leagues Cup break and picked up a 3-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes and an arguably bigger 2-1 win over St. Louis City. Then the formula stopped working against a Miami team dealing with eight international absences. Changes have to be on the table.
Pulido with Agada?
While things didn’t go quite right against Inter Miami, a new wrinkle popped up late in the match with Sporting Kansas City chasing a goal. Willy Agada and Alan Pulido played at the same time for the first time ever.
Agada took the field and appeared to tell Pulido to play underneath him. Daniel Salloi had subbed out and that opened up space out wide left. Erik Thommy appeared to be the designated left winger in this formation, but the whole situation was fluid. When Sporting KC bagged their second goal, it was Pulido who drifted in from out wide left.
Pulido with a heck of a strike. His 13th!
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) September 10, 2023
I don’t suspect that Agada will start with Pulido, but Alan’s flexibility to play underneath as a 10 or wide left, opens up possibilities. That said, I don’t want to see Pulido putting in a 90-minute shift every week. I don’t think Agada has 90 minutes in him yet, but you never know. Maybe they come out on the field together.
Can Radoja Start?
After starting against San Jose and nearly going the full 90, Radoja has been relegated to coming off the bench against STL and Miami. In the 174 minutes he’s played since Leagues Cup, the other team has only scored once, and it was that bizarre Andreu Fontas/Sergio Busquets nonsense. In other words, he makes this team, and this defense, a lot better.
He’s not on the injury report, but he hasn’t been through this entire stretch. It seems Peter is being cautious, but Sporting KC are playing for their playoff lives. Having Radoja to deal with Emanuel Reynoso would be a big win for a Kansas City team that were run over by him in the playoffs a few seasons ago.
Does Melia Lose his Spot?
Several people made the observation that if John Pulskamp gave up the silly penalty kick that Tim Melia did last weekend, he’d probably get benched. I don’t expect that to happen for Melia though. To be fair, he played really well after giving up the penalty and saved several would-be goals (and a couple plays where Miami were offside too).
For his part, Pulskamp has played well with SKC II in recent weeks, even though Chicago scored three last weekend. Two were PKs and he stood on his head quite a few times to limit the Fire’s third division team to just those three goals.
Who is the Starting Left Back?
Since the Leagues Cup break Logan Ndenbe has been the starting left back. Outside of giving up a penalty kick to San Jose, he’s played pretty well. He, like Fontas, was caught out on the game winning goal in Fort Lauderdale. However, that was a unique play and if anyone is catching blame it should be Fontas.
Before the Leagues Cup Leibold started seven straight, came on as a sub against Austin (a loss) and then started the whole Leagues Cup. It’s not like Leibold played bad, so it’s plausible a switch back is in the cards. We saw our first glimpse of Leibold in relief of Jake Davis this weekend and he definitely added a spark, even playing out of position.
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) September 10, 2023
Rest of the Lineup
- Erik Thommy leads the team in assists and has been fantastic the last few weeks. No reason to change that.
- The front line will likely remain unchanged, though if Agada does start, is it Salloi or Russell that come off the bench?
- Honestly, Leibold probably won’t start, but giving up three goals could mean some shuffling.
- Remi is a locked in starter, it’s just a matter of where in the midfield.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Espinoza, Agada, Ndenbe, Voloder, Tzionis, Shelton, Kinda, Gutierrez
A few notes:
- We forgot to put Willy Agada in the poll… let us know in the comments if you see a name missing or want a player at a position we aren’t putting them.
- Lots of faith from all of us that Radoja will be back in the starting lineup this week.
- Dany Rosero at 100% feels right, but also, it’s a rarity to see him score that high in the voting.
- And Davis holding strong at the right back vote, even with the news Zusi is practicing.
Here is the tally of your fan vote. Starters in italics with guys at five or so percent showing up with their tallies.
Goalkeepers: Melia (93.9%), Pulskamp (6.1%)
Defenders: Rosero (100%), Davis (97.0%), Fontas (87.9%), Ndenbe (66.7%), Leibold (36.4%), Voloder (9.1%)
Midfielders: Thommy (84.8%), Walter (81.8%), Radoja (78.8%), Gutierrez (27.3%), Kinda (24.2%)
Wingers: Salloi (100%), Russell (93.9%), Thommy (6.1%)
Strikers: Pulido (100%)