Sporting Kansas City are having a busy “rivalry” week! They defeated their (not) rival in Minnesota United 3-0, they earned a draw against league darlings LAFC on the road (also not a rival) and now they hit the road again for the first ever meeting with St. Louis City SC (who may one day actually be a rival).
It’s kind of a shame St. Louis didn’t have a midweek game as well, as they should be fresh while Sporting Kansas City run the risk of being very tired. They were one of just a few teams who didn’t play midweek. Thanks MLS!
Sporting KC Injury/Availability Updates
QUESTIONABLE – None
Official #SportingKC Injury/Availability Report:
QUESTIONABLE – None
OUT – Tim Melia (quad), Kortne Ford (Achille), Kayden Pierre (hamstring), Willy Agada (tibia surgery), Khiry Shelton (Adductor)
Leibold is completely off the report. #STLvSKC
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) May 19, 2023
Khiry Shelton gets downgraded to out, but Tim Leibold falls off the report. With another double game week, maybe Leibold is in for a start (or at least some minutes) at left back.
Update: We don’t usually cover “the other team” in this article, but I figured I’d drop this here. St. Louis get their striker back.
Bradley Carnell with some important injury updates:
“Nelson, Nilsson, and Alm, those are the three guys that are probably no goes for this weekend. Everyone else is fit and healthy.”
— Justin Horneker (@hornekerjustin) May 18, 2023
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Starting XI Predictions
The aforementioned midweek game for Sporting KC and not for St. Louis could mean SKC need to do some squad rotation.
Is Graham Zusi back in at Right Back?
Late on in the LAFC game, Graham Zusi subbed in for Jake Davis. When I was live Tweeting the game, I was concerned. Davis had handled the potent LA attack well, and Zusi isn’t exactly known for his pace like their forwards are. I wasn’t sure if that was to get Zusi some minutes before a start against St. Louis or to save Jake Davis’ legs so he can go again.
I’m of two minds. Davis has played fairly well, and probably deserves to start. But he’s also more likely to make a mistake in his passing, which we’ve all seen St. Louis pounce on. Davis had a few errant passes against Minnesota, but he seemed to clean that up against LA. And if he makes a mistake, he has the pace to recover so I lean towards him. (Though I think we all know it’ll be Zusi now that he’s healthy.)
Can Radoja Play Again?
Nemanja Radoja has been a revelation since returning from injury. He started and played all 90 minutes against a 10-man Houston Dynamo team in the US Open Cup. He put in a solid shift against Minnesota United and then played all 90 again against LAFC.
As much as I want Sporting KC to win this game against St. Louis, I also want Radoja in for the long haul. I’m hopeful he’s good to go now that he’s healthy, but it’s something to watch. If not him, then it’s Remi and it leaves the backline with less cover and takes Walter out at the #8 where he’s been solid. If he slides back to the #6 spot for Radoja though, Kinda could start next to Erik Thommy, which is fun.
Many were surprised to see Kendall McIntosh start over John Pulskamp midweek. As I said on For the Glory KC, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise after Pulskamp was not on the bench against Minnesota. There was no need to rest John, as he could have played for SKC II the next day in Lawrence, KS, even if he had been on the bench (he didn’t play in that game by the way).
Pulskamp has had a couple shaky moments in net, and I think he tumbled down the depth chart a bit. He’s on a long contract and he’s very young. He has time to fight his way back into the goalkeeping picture.
Plus, McIntosh has shown well each time we’ve seen him. He said after the LAFC game he thought he could do better on the goal allowed, but he was screened by his defender on the shot. After that moment, he played really well and made several key saves. With Melia out, it’s his job to lose right now.
Any Forward Rotation?
I don’t know about you all, but I thought Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell looked very tired down the stretch against LAFC. When they were subbed off for Stephen Afrifa and Marinos Tzionis respectively, the offense had life again. I think Afrifa could have scored even, but he looked a bit tentative (and the team still almost scored on that sequence).
I think there is some real logic to starting the young guys to try and wear down St. Louis. I suspect this won’t happen as Peter trusts his guys, but at least Tzionis should get a look. Then have the “starters” on the bench ready to go. Plus, Johnny had ice on his knee in the background of this amazing Peter Vermes’ performance.
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) May 18, 2023
Rest of the Lineup
- I really think Leibold could start over Ndenbe. He’s coming off an injury too and they played Roger Espinoza at LB for a game, probably to make sure Leibold isn’t coming back to soon. It’s time.
- Daniel Salloi has an endless motor, no doubt he starts.
- Same for Remi. It’s just his position that’s in question.
- If Remi isn’t needed to play d-mid, I’d like to see Gadi Kinda start over Thommy (he’s been great lately, but there are two DPs in one spot in my mind, so they need to rotate).
- I don’t anticipate a change at CB until someone makes a big blunder. Andreu Fontas has made me nervous with his mistakes. Dany Rosero does at times too, but having young, athletic fullbacks next to these guys has helped.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Espinoza, Afrifa, Thommy, Ndenbe, Zusi, Hernandez, Russell, Castellanos
There were some votes for rotation, but not a ton. A few notes:
- McIntosh surged into the GK lead after his midweek start. How long is Melia out? He’s waiting on some scans last we heard.
- You all believe in Davis as well, but less of you think it’s Leibold time at LB.
- We agreed on the midfield, but it was a very close and divided vote.
- No rotation on the wing, but Tzionis had a healthy number of votes.
- Same for Afrifa at CF.
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 (63.5%), Pulskamp (31.7%), Melia (4.8%)
Defenders: Rosero (95.2%), Fontas (77.8%), Ndenbe (74.6%), Davis (60.3%), Zusi (34.9%), Leibold (23.8%), Voloder (15.9%), Castellanos (9.5%), Rindov (4.8%)
Midfielders: Walter (90.5%), Kinda (71.4%), Radoja (63.5%), Thommy (57.1%), Hernandez (17.5%), Espinoza (4.8%)
Wingers: Salloi (87.5%), Russell (84.4%), Tzionis (26.6%)
Strikers: Pulido (76.6%), Afrifa (23.4%)