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Sporting KC Injury Updates & Lineup Predictions v St. Louis

There are two new additions to Sporting Kansas City’s injury report and a notable absence. Who should start, based on that information?



Johnny Russell is a game time decision. | Credit: Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City are back from their break in style with a 3-0 home win, but of course that means new injuries. This is Kansas City, we can’t have a healthy soccer team (men or women’s).

Sporting KC Injury/Availability Updates

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

QUESTIONABLE – Graham Zusi (hamstring), Stephen Afrifa (hamstring), Johnny Russell (ankle), Gadi Kinda (ankle)

Johnny Russell and Gadi Kinda are the new, and expected, additions to the injury report. Russell badly rolled his ankle early in the San Jose Earthquakes game (though scored a great goal after) and Kinda was a late scratch based on an ankle injury picked up before the game. Both Gadi and PV said Kinda would be ready to go by this weekend, but he has moved to a game time decision as of Thursday.

Absent from the report is Nemanja Radoja, who apparently wasn’t seen in practice that was open to the media on Thursday. If he’s a game time decision, it seems he should be questionable.

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Starting XI Predictions

Way less to talk about this week, but there are a few key questions (and if you’ve listened to my podcast, you know I don’t struggle to talk).

If Russell Can’t Start, then Who?

If last week is any indication, then it’s Khiry Shelton getting the start as he came on for Russell when he was hurt. For Khiry, he played fine, though was under almost no pressure already up 2-0. Neither Khiry nor Marinos Tzionis are super secure with the ball, and that could be an issue against the high press of St. Louis City. Tzionis was about the worst I’ve seen him all year last week, and that was playing in his preferred LW position.

I suspect it’s Khiry, but if Kinda can go, I wouldn’t rule out Erik Thommy on the wing and Kinda in the midfield (until a sub is needed). No matter who it is, turnovers way down the field are less painful than turnovers in the back.

Here is to hoping for a miraculous Johnny Russell recovery. And if anyone can do it, it’s Johnny.

What if Radoja can’t go?

This would really hurt the team. Nemanja’s ability to be a calming, ball progressing d-mid is something Remi doesn’t have in his bag. I like Remi, but further up the field please! Remi is smart in possession, but he rarely passes the ball forward when he plays defensive midfielder. Plus, if Radoja can’t go, then that has a cascading effect on the rest of the lineup. I imagine Felipe Gutierrez would start next to either Kinda or Thommy if Remi is deeper.

Who Plays Left Back?

I couldn’t have been the only one surprised to see a healthy Tim Leibold on the bench with Logan Ndenbe starting at left back last weekend, could I? It seems to me Leibold is option 1A, but maybe Peter Vermes made choices based on the matchup. Cristian Espinoza is one of the best wingers in MLS and Ndenbe shut him down.

I suspect, if he really is healthy, Leibold is back in because his crisp passing will be an asset to play out of the St. Louis press. Then again, Ndenbe’s ability to recover defensively would be an asset too when Sporting inevitably turn the ball over. I’m good either way but lean towards Leibold.

Changes since the last meeting

When I looked at the last meeting, I was surprised how close to a first choice 11 Sporting KC rolled out. That said, it was on short rest, Kendall McIntosh was in goal and the often-injured Graham Zusi was at RB. Tim Melia will surely be in goal this time (and I doubt all four of those goals in the prior meeting would have gotten past him), Davis will play RB, and there are questions (see above) in front of them.

One thing Sporting will have that St. Louis won’t is full rest. Last time they met, SKC had made a road trip to LAFC in the middle of the week. The schedule makers weren’t as hard on STL for this second meeting, but they did play a midweek home game against FC Dallas. Dallas was nice enough to get a 12th minute red card and that definitely gives you a bit of a rest in game. It did take until the 82nd minute for St. Louis to score though, so that probably meant they were pushing for a while.

Is there a luckier team in all of MLS than St. Louis?

Probably a little too optimistic here.

Rest of the Lineup

  • Melia is the keeper again, no doubt. He played really well except one errant pass straight to San Jose from his own box. If he does that against St. Louis, they’ll score. Everyone just gives them the ball in terrible spots.
  • Pulido and Salloi are locked in starters.
  • Rosero and Fontas seem to be as well, even if they have their moments. On full rest, they are capable.

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

Fan XI

We have the same lineup, minus you all have Kinda over Thommy. A few notes.

  • When we put Melia in the poll, it makes a world of difference.
  • Ndenbe jumped up a bunch after his strong performance last week (minus that PK he committed).

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 (96.4%)

Defenders: Rosero (98.2%), Davis (94.6%), Fontas (89.3%), Leibold (57.1%), Ndenbe (44.6%), Voloder (5.4%), Castellanos (5.4%)

Midfielders: Walter (91.1%), Radoja (87.5%), Kinda (64.3%), Thommy (46.4%), Gutierrez (7.1%)

Wingers: Salloi (94.6%), Russell (58.9%), Thommy (17.9%), Tzionis (14.3%), Shelton (7.1%)

Strikers: Pulido (98.2%)

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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