Sporting Kansas City are home for just the fourth game of the 2023 Major League Soccer season. They are still looking for their first league victory.
Sporting KC Injury/Availability Updates
Official #SportingKC Injury/Availability Report:
OUT: Fontas (red card), Agada (tibia stress fracture), Pierre (hamstring), Leibold (hamstring), Ford (achilles)
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) April 27, 2023
The main change is the movement of Agada to officially being out (even though we knew that after last week’s report, but before last week’s game). Andreu Fontas is unavailable due to his red card as well.
So, no improvements and no downgrades. I guess the downgrades part is a plus. I did worry that Felipe Hernandez pulled something towards the end of the game, so I’m glad not to see him show up on here.
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Starting XI Predictions
Lots of decisions to make off the first decent result of the season.
Andreu Fontas is Suspended
For the second straight game, a Sporting KC player picked up a red card. With Fontas out, Robert Castellanos is back. That said, it’s time to go another direction at left center back. The re-emergence of Logan Ndenbe from injury should free up Robert Voloder to be the LCB of the present and the future. Pair him up with Dany Rosero and see if this can be a solid spine for years to come (or until Voloder is sold for a big fee — hopefully).
Voloder has more pace than Fontas and more passing ability than Castellanos. Let him play in his natural position and see if he can emerge as a potential defense standout. He’s literally not played his main position in 2023 at all, despite consistently being a starter.
If Zusi Can’t Play… Again
The Cam Duke experiment at right back didn’t work against New England. Duke was consistently caught out of position against the Revs backup winger. Montreal may be rocking a backup if Romell Quioto cannot go, but Duke’s bad positioning left Rosero covering for him constantly.
Jake Davis played well on Tuesday in the US Open Cup against Tulsa, which is admittedly much lower competition. Davis has tireless energy, and while a midfielder by trade, is a capable defender. He even had a laugh with us in the locker room that he’s gotten no cards yet in 2023, which shows great improvement over his card heavy early portion of his career with SKC II.
If it’s really just fatigue for Zusi, as Peter said, then maybe he’s back despite the questionable designation. Sitting out three straight games would be something and make me question that “fatigue” comment.
Vermes on Zusi's injury: "I think it's probably a little bit more fatigue. So he's not really anything overly serious." #SportingKC
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) April 22, 2023
Does the midweek game change availability?
Plenty of guys got at least partial rest. Johnny Russell was nowhere to be seen. Erik Thommy came off the bench (at the false 9 no less). Daniel Salloi didn’t play a full 90. Even Remi Walter got a well-deserved break when he subbed out. I imagine we see all of them on Saturday night.
Roger Espinoza didn’t start, but he has played in both games so far this week, so I’d expect he’s not a starter because of it. It’ll also be interesting to see how Gadi Kinda bounces back from his 30-minute debut. Will they be extra cautious or is he in for another start with the plan to bring him out early? A midfield of Thommy, Kinda and Walter could be very interesting. I’m still more interested in seeing Nemanja Radoja, but that remains to be decided. I’ll guess Kinda either won’t play or will be very limited if he’s appearing twice in just a few days.
Should Roger Espinoza Play D-Mid?
In the preseason, the team kept putting out lineups with Roger playing defensive midfielder (in games we didn’t get to see). They would specifically label them with Roger playing deep. But outside of a bit of a double pivot at times with Roger next to Remi Walter, we haven’t seen it during the regular season. Until the US Open Cup that is.
When Remi finally got subbed out of a game, Roger came in and fell back to defensive midfielder. He looked good, but the level of competition matters. A concern of him playing there would be that he doesn’t have pace, and when Fontas is out there he doesn’t have pace, so that’s a slow transition defense.
The pros are many though. Roger reads the game incredibly well (I’d argue this is why he’s playing, even when his motor can’t hold up). He actually has become a very solid passer over a good distance. And finally, it would let Remi play further up the field. I think Remi can be a goal scorer or at least a threat enough to open space for others. Something that Roger isn’t doing when he’s in that spot. I don’t think it’ll happen, but it’s something to ponder.
Rest of the Lineup
- Tim Melia stood on his head against the New England Revolution, despite the loss. Because of that, I think his starting job remains safe. Add that to John Pulskamp giving up (though eventually saving) a PK in the US Open Cup, and that’s a safe week for Tim.
- Russell likely steps back into the starting lineup. I’d be interested to see if it was Tzionis on the left, but I doubt it. Salloi hasn’t been great, but he may work harder than anyone on the field and PV will likely reward that.
- Despite the signing of Stephen Afrifa, I doubt he makes the bench since he isn’t arriving until Friday. I’ll be interested to see though if Pulido needs to sub off if Thommy plays the false 9 again, or even if Kinda pops up there. We all know it’ll probably be Shelton.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Espinoza, Rindov, Shelton, Castellanos, Davis, Duke, Tzionis, Kinda
Another week without any shock injuries, but I also didn’t give you much time to vote. A few notes:
- Melia surged back up the voting after his performance (even in a loss) against New England.
- You all actually agree with me on the back line, though Davis made a healthy climb after his performance against Tulsa.
- Kinda surges into a starting role in the midfield. That could be fun.
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 (84.4%), Pulskamp (15.6%)
Defenders: Rosero (93.5%), Voloder (87.0%), Ndenbe (84.8%), Zusi (54.3%), Castellanos (28.3%), Davis (26.1%), Leibold (8.7%), Duke (6.5%)
Midfielders: Walter (97.8%), Thommy (71.7%), Kinda (69.6%), Hernandez (39.1%), Radoja (17.4%), Espinoza (15.2%)
Wingers: Russell (91.3%), Salloi (71.7%), Tzionis (32.6%), Pulido (8.7%)
Strikers: Pulido (89.1%), Russell (6.5%)