Sporting KC Injury/Availability Updates
Questionable: Kinda, Ndenbe
Out: Ford, Leibold, Radoja, Pierre
— Daniel Sperry (@sperrydaniel94) April 13, 2023
No changes to the official injury report. It’s nice to see any new players popping up, but an upgrade or two, particularly to Radoja or Leibold would be very welcome.
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Starting XI Predictions
Seven games. Two Goals. Zero wins. Changes? Let’s talk about it.
Is it Time to Bench Thommy?
Let’s start off with a little bit of a hot take (though I think it’s more lukewarm). I think Erik Thommy was possibly the best player on Sporting KC in 2023 after joining in the summer. That felt true in the first couple games of 2023 (or at least second best behind Remi). But in the last few games, Thommy can’t get out of his own way. I called it the ‘yips’ on For the Glory KC this week.
Whatever you call it, he’s pressing too hard. Not tactically, just trying to do too much. Too many touches. Too slow on his decision make. He passes when he should shoot. He shoots when he should pass. I think it’s probably time that he sees the game (at least the start of it) from the bench.
The problem is, who plays the more attacking of the dual #8 midfield spots? Until Gadi Kinda is healthy, there isn’t a great option. SKC tried Cam Duke here at times in 2022 without success (but there wasn’t a lot of success to go around last season). Ozzie Cisneros has played really well the last two weeks for Sporting KC II, but I just don’t see them giving him the chance (but now feels like the perfect time because he’ll be buried when Kinda returns).
It’ll be Thommy, but it feels like maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe coming off the bench, or seeing the game from somewhere else, is exactly what he needs.
[Edit: 07:30AM] I was listening to Home and Away this morning (definitely recommend if you have that kind of time) and their Cody suggested Pulido here. That actually makes a ton of sense, even if Drew sort of disagreed. I’m kind of mad I didn’t think about it, because I had this thought during the last game when Thommy, Pulido and Salloi were on top of each other in their average positioning.
Is the Backline Set for Now?
Until Tim Leibold returns from injury, is it possible this is the backline? Two straight games it’s been (right to left) Graham Zusi, Dany Rosero, Robert Castellanos and Robi Voloder. They held a shutout against the Philadelphia Union and gave up a weird goal against the Colorado Rapids. That’s 0.5 goals per game, which would be a magically strong season, but it’s a very small sample size.
The San Jose Earthquakes have scored just seven times through seven games, so they (and most of the league) aren’t exactly lighting the nets on fire.
My only question is does this backline need some more distribution out of the back to jumpstart and incredibly stagnant attack? I think it probably does, but that would seemingly require Voloder or Andreu Fontas at LCB. I incorrectly predicted Voloder to go there last week.
Cam Duke has played left back for 180 straight minutes for SKC II but that doesn’t mean Peter Vermes will give him a start in MLS (and move Voloder over). His offense would be better than Voloder’s, but his defense likely wouldn’t be.
I imagine there will be no changes here.
Does Roger Usurp Felipe in the Midfield?
Last week, despite my prediction it would happen, I was surprised to see Felipe Hernandez start over Roger Espinoza. It feels like the right move because Roger has been struggling physically, even if he reads the game exceptionally well. Until Nemanja Radoja is ready to join the starting lineup and push Remi Walter up to one of the dual #8 spots, Felipe should keep starting. More minutes around other quality players will hopefully continue to lift his game.
Back to Pulskamp in Goal?
I won’t pretend to know what a goalkeeper is supposed to do positionally. However, the consensus from those in the know seems to be that Tim Melia botched the play that allowed the goal against the Colorado Rapids and led to Sporting KC’s loss (the lack of offense sure isn’t helping).
Does that mean it’s time to see John Pulskamp back in net? Somehow, I doubt it. It’s Melia’s first mistake of the season (and it was aided by other mistakes on that same play — a confluence of mistakes if you will). I bet Tim gets another run out. But if he shows further signs he doesn’t have it, let’s get John back in net.
Rest of the Lineup
- I see no reason to change the starting front three of Daniel Salloi, Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell. More time together is seemingly just what they need. And I still like the idea of Agada off the bench, even if it didn’t come off last weekend.
- Remi had a flub on the Colorado goal too, but I thought he actually made a good effort to be back in the right spot and he’s been so fantastic otherwise, his job is in no jeopardy.
- In the end I made no changes, as I’d like to give this lineup time to gel (though look forward to Leibold and Radoja breaking in when healthy).
- I literally talked about every spot. I have a problem.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Espinoza, Ndenbe, Shelton, Fontas, Davis, Duke, Tzionis, Agada
For once the injury report from one week, was the same and didn’t impact the voting. A few notes:
- Melia tumbled in the voting after his gaffe, but he still starts.
- Rosero is starting to become an unquestioned starter, but frankly I’m surprised his votes aren’t higher… he’s definitely starting.
- Duke is creeping up the defensive votes (are you all watching SKC II??!)
- Thommy took a noticeable dip, though Remi actually went up despite his error. We are all seeing the same thing it seems!
- Salloi’s votes have been shrinking. I feel like he’s getting into good spots, but he needs someone to get him the ball. That said, Colorado passed it right to him in the box and he botched it.
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 (54.2%), Pulskamp (40.3%), McIntosh (5.6%)
Defenders: Rosero (87.5%), Zusi (65.3%), Voloder (55.6%), Castellanos (51.4%), Leibold (37.5%), Fontas (33.3%), Pierre (33.3%), Duke (19.4%), Rindov (9.7%)
Midfielders: Walter (94.4%), Thommy (79.2%), Hernandez (62.5%), Radoja (34.7%), Espinoza (20.8%), Pulido (6.9%)
Wingers: Russell (93.1%), Salloi (80.6%), Tzionis (18.1%), Shelton (6.9%)
Strikers: Pulido (81.9%), Agada (16.7%)