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Sporting KC Injury Updates & Lineup Predictions v San Jose

The first Sporting Kansas City injury report in a month is out. There is lots of movement to get you caught up on the health of this team with some additions and subtractions.



Kayden Pierre is back on the injury report. | Credit: Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City are finally returning from a 22-day break after an earlyish elimination from the first real Leagues Cup. There is a lot to get caught up on with the health of this team.

Sporting KC Injury/Availability Updates

OUT – Kortne Ford (Achilles surgery), Kayden Pierre (hamstring)

QUESTIONABLE – Graham Zusi (hamstring), Stephen Afrifa (hamstring)

During the Leagues cup, teams seemingly weren’t required to release an injury/availability report. Because of that, the last report we had before today was back on July 14th. That report still included Felipe Hernandez, Tim Melia and Willy Agada. All those players, as we know from their participation in first or second team games, or sitting on the bench, are off the report.

Also, no longer injured is perhaps the most important player on the field in defensive midfielder Nemanja Radoja. He picked up a “whack in his calf” against Austin FC and proceeded to miss the entirety of the Leagues Cup.

The sad news of the injury report is told in Thad Bell’s beautiful black and white image at the top of this story. Kayden Pierre, who had played for SKC II and even subbed on late against Toluca, is back on the injury report. Hopefully we’ll have an update on that on Thursday.

Update 8/24: Pierre picked up the injury in practice.

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Starting XI Predictions

With that aforementioned 22-day break, the team is a bit healthier in terms of first choice guys, so it’s worth looking at the roster and deciding what the best XI is.

Who Plays Goalkeeper?

All three goalkeepers are healthy with Tim Melia back in practice and showing up on the bench during the Leagues Cup. Admittedly, despite limited minutes, Melia has probably played the best of all three keepers all year. Since we last saw Melia play in a game, the May 13th win over Minnesota United, he’s turned a year older, clocking in at 37-years-of-age (Zusi has turned 37 since his last minutes as well).

With this season not quite lost, but almost over, it’s time to build towards the future. John Pulskamp played well in the Leagues Cup (don’t let the goals against fool you, he saved a ton of tough shots, and his defense failed him without Radoja in the lineup). It should still be John’s job, but I won’t hold my breath.

You should absolutely read Robert’s exclusive interview with John:

John Pulskamp’s Pride: “Best believe” in Sporting Kansas City’s young goalkeeper

How Does Radoja Shake up the Midfield?

If Nemanja Radoja can play more than a half, he should start. He’s unquestionably the best defensive midfielder on the team (no offense Remi, I want you further up the pitch). If he’s in, then who of Walter, Erik Thommy and Gadi Kinda do you start?

I think Remi is a locked in starter. He does all the running and field coverage and has repeatedly proved his worth. I’d probably start Erik Thommy next to him and have Gadi ready to come in as a game changer (let’s retire this substitute word). Kinda may be the team’s best attacking player and he’s an agent of chaos. I like that coming on to shake things up in the second half.

What About that Backline?

Peter Vermes has shown pretty consistently that his preferred back four (since Zusi is still unlikely to play), is Jake Davis, Dany Rosero, Andreu Fontas and Tim Leibold. That is what I expect to see again. But it’s hard to not notice they gave up seven goals in three games (including a shutout of Chivas) in the Leagues Cup. I put a firm asterisk on the FC Cincinnati game because of the red card and I think fatigue played heavily into those goals against Toluca.

Also, Radoja wasn’t in those games. On full rest, I’m fine with this back line (given the alternatives on this roster). When the team plays their only remaining midweek game on September 20th against Nashville, they better rotate, or they are asking to get beaten down. Especially with every point mattering so much down the stretch. That’s five games from now, it could all be over by then anyways.

Rest of the Lineup

  • I expect a front three of Johnny Russell, Alan Pulido and Daniel Salloi. Russell’s job seems the most in jeopardy with his form as of late, but he did score a really nice goal against Chivas. Let Tzionis sub in for whichever winger needs a rest or doesn’t have it against San Jose.
  • Willy Agada better keep getting minutes now that he’s back. He looked good in limited minutes against Toluca and got a goal. It’s a great option to not run Pulido into the ground, especially if they offered him $8.8 million to stick around another two years.
  • I’m not sure I’ve said it enough, but I really like Espinoza off the bench for 15 minutes. He still has bite, even if he’s a step slow. And his creative play is miles ahead of even a few years ago.
  • Building the bench below left me putting Shelton on (because I know he’ll be there) and Hernandez off. I suppose I’d rather see Felipe with the II’s versus riding the bench. And lately it seems Kinda, Espinoza and the other Felipe, Gutierrez, are ahead of him. What a deep midfield!

Rest of the 20: Melia, Espinoza, Agada, Ndenbe, Voloder, Tzionis, Shelton, Kinda, Gutierrez

Fan XI

I really have to get with Ben on these “Predict the Lineup” pieces. We didn’t have Melia in the poll (he’s in now). Whoops! We were in ‘Leagues Cup break’ most still. A few notes:

  • Melia got no votes, but I bet he would have if he was in there. Heck, he’ll probably start knowing Peter.
  • Gadi Kinda is the team’s best midfielder, I don’t disagree, but I like his change of pace. You all disagree and want him starting at the expense of Erik Thommy.
  • Pulido is the only player to earn 100% in a category.

Here is the tally of your fan vote. Starters in italics with guys at five or so percent showing up with their tallies.

Goalkeepers: Pulskamp (86.0%), McIntosh (14.0%)

Defenders: Rosero (96.0%), Davis (92.0%), Leibold (80.0%), Fontas (80.0%), Ndenbe (18.0%), Voloder (16.0%), Castellanos (8.0%), Zusi (6.0%), Rindov (4.0%)

Midfielders: Kinda (86.0%), Walter (74.0%), Radoja (64.0%), Thommy (60.0%), Gutierrez (14.0%)

Wingers: Salloi (94.0%), Russell (92.0%), Thommy (8.0%), Tzionis (4.0%)

Strikers: Pulido (100%)

Playoff Math: What Does Sporting KC Need to Do?

What is your preferred lineup? Let us know in the comments below. You can also add pictures in the comments too, so maybe go to and throw together a graphic if you are feeling fancy.

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