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Sporting KC v Vancouver Whitecaps: Preview, Injuries & Predictions

Sporting Kansas City desperately need to win a game. Are they catching the Vancouver Whitecaps at the perfect time?

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Credit: Thad Bell

Sporting KC vs Vancouver Whitecaps

When: Wednesday, May 28, 2024 at 7:30 PM CT (7:40 kickoff)

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

How to Watch/Stream: Apple MLS Season Pass

The last time I previewed a match was nearly a month ago and I started the story with this:

“2024 is not 2023 for Sporting Kansas City. We all know how tough of a start that 2023 was as SKC went 0-7-3 through their first 10 games.”

A month later and maybe 2024 is worse than 2023. Through 14 games played, the years look like this:

  • 2023: 2-8-4 (10 points)
  • 2024: 2-7-5 (11 points)

In 2023, the team won the 15th game (and the 14th for that matter). Without a win on Wednesday at home, they’ll fall off the pace of an abysmal start in 2023.

Why is it worse? There are really no excuses like there were last season. Peter Vermes kept saying he just needed all the tools in his toolbox, and it’d be different. Alan Pulido was slowly returning from injury. Gadi Kinda was in the same boat (he wouldn’t go more than 45-minutes in a start until a year ago today. Those ‘tools’ became available, and they got right.

This year, Kinda is gone, and he wasn’t replaced. But the injuries haven’t been nearly as toxic with a few players missing here or there. I doubt anyone believes ‘if they just had Remi Walter these last few games’ or ‘if Dany Rosero hadn’t missed a couple games’ is an argument that the whole season turns around.

They are leaking goals and more importantly, they aren’t creating quality chances. Sure, they’ve scored 22 times but that’s vastly outperforming their underlying numbers. American Soccer Analysis has them at an xG (expected goals) of just 15.57. They’ve got nearly seven goals they shouldn’t have. That’s troubling.

Right now, it just feels like Sporting KC are a bad team. It’s not clear what they need to do to get right, but they need to figure it out immediately. It took a blistering pace to make it into the playoffs in 2023 and they only did so on Decision Day. The summer transfer window is too late as it’s still nearly two months away. Sporting KC need to fix things yesterday.

What’s new for Vancouver in 2024?

What’s not new is the Vancouver Whitecaps have some stability for the first time in a while. Head coach Vanni Sartini has been on staff with the Whitecaps since 2019 as an assistant and is now in his fourth season as head coach. They’ve slumped recently, but they may be building something nice.

They didn’t have much turnover this offseason.

IN: Fafa Picault has been a revelation that joined as a free agent after years of torturing the Western Conference with his pace for FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo before he snuck to Nashville SC for a season. He’s joined by another familiar name, Damir Kreilach, who came over from Real Salt Lake but has struggled with injuries.

The team also added defenders Bjørn Inge Utvik from Sarpsborg 08 (Norway), Giuseppe Bovalina from Adelaide United (Australia) and Belal Halbouni from FC Magdeburg II (Germany). Finally, they traded for midfielder Ralph Priso from the Colorado Rapids.

OUT: The “outs” have a few KC connections. First, goalkeeper Thomas “The Wall” Hasal had his option declined. KC fans may remember him because they made him look like the second coming of Gianluigi Buffon by shooting all their shots straight at him when he was making his debut.

Topeka, Kansas native Simon Becher was sold to AC Horsens (Denmark) and Kamron Habibullah had his option declined and landed on Sporting KC II where he’s been a star. SKC should probably loan him up to go wild on his old team.

Kansas City’s Form

  • May 8th @ Union Omaha – 2-1 Win (US Open Cup)
  • May 11th vs. Houston Dynamo – 1-2 Loss
  • May 18th @ Austin FC – 2-3 Loss
  • May 21st vs. FC Tulsa – 4-0 Win (US Open Cup)
  • May 25th @ Portland Timbers – 1-2 Loss

Make no mistake, it’s worse than that looks. Outside of two USOC wins against lower division foes (and one that took 120 minutes), SKC are winless in eight straight league games including five straight losses. The only good thing is Vancouver are playing just as bad.

Vancouver’s Recent Form

  • May 11th @ LAFC – 0-3 Loss
  • May 15th @ Colorado Rapids – 0-1 Loss
  • May 18th @ Seattle Sounders – 1-1 Draw
  • May 21st vs. Cavalry – 0-1 Loss (Canadian Championship)
  • May 25th vs. Inter Miami – 1-2 Loss

The ‘loss’ against Cavalry has an asterisk as they won 2-2 on away goals to advance and they heavily rotated their squad. But maybe SKC are catching Vancouver in a moment of weakness? They haven’t won a league game since April 20th against the Seattle Sounders who got an early red card. The last legit win was against Toronto FC on April 6th. That feels familiar as Toronto are SKC’s last league win too (March 30th).

Injury/Availability Report

Official injury reports aren’t available until matchday minus one in the afternoon, so here are last week’s report as we wait for today’s news. 

Sporting KC:

  • OUT – Logan Ndenbe (Torn ACL), Memo Rodriguez (yellow card accumulation), Kayden Pierre (ankle), Erik Thommy (hamstring), Danny Flores (concussion), Remi Walter (knee)
  • QUESTIONABLE – None

Update 11:09 AM: Thommy is out multiple weeks.

Update 5/29/2024: Added Flores and Walter to the ‘out’ column. Also, Cubas is available for Vancouver and Kreilach is upgraded to questionable. 

Vancouver:

  • OUT – Sam Adekugbe (calf)
  • QUESTIONABLE – Damir Kreilach (ankle)

Suspensions

Sporting KC: Memo Rodriguez (yellow card accumulation)

  • Suspended Next Yellow: Andreu Fontas

Vancouver: None

Stats

Sporting KC

Goals: Erik Thommy (4), Willy Agada, Alan Pulido (3), Remi Walter, Dany Rosero, Jake Davis (2), Nemanja Radoja, Alenis Vargas, Memo Rodriguez, Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russell (1)

Assists: Rodriguez (4), Salloi (3), Davis, Agada, Pulido (2), Russell, Andreu Fontas, Tim Leibold, Robert Voloder, Walter, Radoja (1)

Vancouver

Goals: Ryan Gauld, Brian White (5), Fafa Picault (3), Ryan Raposo (2), five with one (1)

Assists: Raposo (3), Andres Cubas, Gauld, Picault, Pedro Vite, White (2), three with one (1)

Predictions

Sporting KC have only lost twice, ever, at home against Vancouver in the regular season (7-2-2). They also hold a distinct lead in the all-time series with a 12-6-5 regular season record. However, Kansas City have struggled in recent seasons against the Caps. They are 1-3-1 in the last five. They did win 3-0 in KC last summer though, in the middle of their epic climb up the table.

According to our friends over at The Third Sub, Vancouver has failed to score an open play goal for the fifth straight game. But we’ve heard about teams struggling and then coming to KC and getting right. So, I wouldn’t put that much weight on it with players like White, Gauld, Picault and Raposo ready to make Sporting KC pay.

Still, there has to be an opening for KC here. Vancouver have tumbled down the Western Conference standings. They were hovering around the top at the start of the season and now find themselves down in 7th. But it could be worse. Just ask Sporting Kansas City who have finally dipped all the way to last place.

Maybe Vancouver will rotate their lineup in preparation for the Colorado Rapids who are above them in the table?

While Sporting KC may be catching Vancouver at the perfect time, no one in good conscience can pick them to win a game not against a lower division foe. If they do in fact lose again, their losing streak in league play will eclipse two months. Ouch!

PREDICTION: 2-1 Vancouver Win

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