Sporting Kansas City are riding high once again after a thorough handling of the Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend. They enter possibly one of the most important three game stretches of the season as they play three times in eight days against three teams they are chasing in the standings: the Houston Dynamo, Real Salt Lake and Austin FC.
Sporting KC need to keep winning. Even on the road.
Sporting KC Injury/Availability Updates
QUESTIONABLE – Nemanja Radoja (adductor injury)
Official #SportingKC Injury/Availability Report:
QUESTIONABLE – Nemanja Radoja (adductor)
OUT – Agada (tibia surgery), Zusi (hamstring), Melia (quad), Ford (Achilles)
Radoja leaving early against Vancouver and Gutierrez signing today may make a little more sense now. #HOUvSKC
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) July 6, 2023
Nemanja Radoja is the only addition and it’s only questionable, but that’s a big one. Perhaps the single most important player for the way this team plays (or Alan Pulido). Additionally, Kayden Pierre and Logan Ndenbe rightfully fall off the injury report after Pierre started for SKC II last weekend and Ndenbe made a cameo for Sporting KC against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
This is the healthiest I can remember SKC being all season.
Backheeled Insights gives MLS fans and bettors detailed analysis for every single game, powered by the Insights propriety model. Plus, you’ll get a full description of every team, including depth charts, scouting reports, stats, and absences. Get 10% off an annual Insights subscription today and support the Kansas City Soccer Journal in the process.
The KC Soccer Journal makes a commission off the above ad, but it in no way impacts our editorial content.
Starting XI Predictions
Another week and another set of problems and questions to answer.
Well… There is Why Gutierrez is Back
It’s not as simple as Radoja being hurt and Felipe Gutierrez returning, but it’s a factor in my mind. Obviously, these two things could be entirely mutually exclusive (and could have long been in the works ahead of time), but I really liked Gutierrez as a smart, game reading defensive midfielder. While he was an exceptional player in his first stint with the team (when healthy), and he can play all the midfield spots, his ability to read the game make him a good option to start at defensive midfielder if/when it’s needed. I’d say it’s still Radoja’s job, but he has the deep-lying playmaker toolbox that I’m not sure Radoja possesses.
It’s been confirmed he’s already at practice, but who knows where his fitness is. He last played for Al Wasl on May 11th from what I can see. He started and went 90 minutes. In league and cup play, he appeared to have 12 appearances for 1,018 minutes, two goals and two assists. He even lined up at defensive midfielder in some of those games according to Transfermarkt.
Vermes did say likely not until Wednesday at the soonest would we see him on the pitch, despite his desire to play right away.
While in my mind I see Gutierrez as a midfielder, Vermes thinks he play seven different spots. Essentially, it’s the three forward spots and three midfield spots, but why not throw some attacking fullback in there too!
How Tenuous is McIntosh’s Hold?
Last week I made the case it’s time to see John Pulskamp between the pipes. Then Kendall McIntosh got kicked in the face but proceeded to play like a badass and continue in the game and earn a shutout. He did only have to make one save, though.
Between the form before the Whitecaps game and the nasty shiner on his eye, I won’t rule out a goalkeeper switch, but I imagine McIntosh is still the starter. He’s not on the injury report, so that means there wasn’t a broken orbital bone from the collision with Sergio Cordova that required stitches on the field. (And didn’t even result in a foul call — I’m not bitter.)
No card. No foul.
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) July 2, 2023
Despite McIntosh only making one save, Pulskamp made none in a 7-1 shelling of VWFC2.
What is the Midfield Trio?
When healthy, it seems that it’s Radoja and Walter who are locked in starters. I like the alternating starts that Thommy and Kinda have done lately as they are both a weapon off the bench. With the oppressive heat in Houston, doing that again feels like a good idea. Radoja popping up on the injury report definitely throws a wrench in things. I wouldn’t be stunned if it’s Gutierrez behind Walter and Thommy, but Peter seemingly ruled that out. If Guti isn’t ready, Remi at the 6 behind Thommy and Kinda is a good plan too. That just leaves less punch on the bench.
Rest of the Lineup
- Outside of those spots, not much feels up for grabs.
- The front three feel set with Salloi, Pulido and Russell. I would like to see Tzionis start at some point this week for rotation purposes.
- The back line seems to be (left to right) Leibold, Fontas, Rosero and Davis and even with Ndenbe back I don’t see this changing.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Espinoza, Afrifa, Ndenbe, Voloder, Shelton, Hernandez, Castellanos, Gutierrez
Obviously, the Gutierrez signing and Radoja injury news aren’t factored in yet. But next week they will as I already have Guti in the poll! A few notes:
- McIntosh retakes the vote lead at GK. Chicks dig a black eye.
- Davis and Rosero with 100 percent of the vote at their position. Frankly, it makes sense.
- Only four midfielders even registered more than a single vote. That also feels right (pre-injury/signing news). I’ll be interested to see if PV sticks with Kinda as the votes show or keeps alternating.
Here is the tally of your fan vote. Starters in italics with guys at five or so percent showing up with their tallies.
Goalkeepers: McIntosh (68.6%), Pulskamp (31.4%)
Defenders: Rosero (100%), Davis (100%), Leibold (92.2%), Fontas (80.4%), Voloder (11.8%), Ndenbe (7.8%), Castellanos (7.8%)
Midfielders: Radoja (90.2%), Walter (86.3%), Kinda (72.5%), Thommy (49.0%)
Wingers: Salloi (96.1%), Russell (74.5%), Tzionis (17.6%), Thommy (11.8%)
Strikers: Pulido (96.1%)