Sporting Kansas City vanquished St. Louis City SC and are now set for a match-up against the Houston Dynamo in as the playoffs turn to single elimination from here out. We’ve already previewed the game on two podcasts (For the Glory KC and Shades of Blue) with a full preview coming closer to the game for those that prefer the written word.
Let’s get right to the injury report.
Sporting KC Injury/Availability Updates
QUESTIONABLE – Dany Rosero (broken nose)
#SportingKC injury report ahead of Sunday's Western Conference Semi-Final:
Only surprise to some might be Felipe Gutierrez being listed as out with a knee injury. He has not been in training for the last couple weeks, was left out of the team at home against St. Louis. pic.twitter.com/gORVYY7EuL
— Daniel Sperry (@sperrydaniel94) November 23, 2023
What a difference three weeks have made! If there is one positive from the massive, potentially momentum crushing, break in the MLS Cup Playoffs, is SKC got a lot healthier. Sure, they’ve added some new injuries, but those would have existed if it was a week or three and the two extra weeks may actually make Rosero available.
Since the last time Sporting KC played at home against St. Louis, Russell, Pulido, Davis, Thommy, Agada and Leibold all came off the injury list. Sure, all but Agada and Leibold played of those injured players, but they should be far healthier against Houston.
Also, the addition of Gutierrez to the report makes some sense. He’s not been on the bench for a bit and frankly if he was dealing with something it’s odd he wasn’t on the report earlier. Maybe this is a new injury. Either way, he hasn’t played in over a month or started in nearly two months, so he was unlikely to play against Houston.
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Starting XI Predictions
The report has changed significantly, but that only leaves us with a few questions.
Who Plays Left Back?
We’ve already dedicated a whole story to this, but there are some updates.
It sounds likely that Tim Leibold is going to be the man, which is what we predicted the whole time. Fellow KC Soccer Journal writer David Greenwald reported on SOB that Graham Zusi is likely first off the bench since Leibold won’t have 90 minutes in him. He also said Roger Espinoza is under consideration for left back minutes. Both of those were guesses I’d made in the above story, but I definitely didn’t have Zusi as the first backup.
The three weeks likely gave Leibold time to work on his fitness since he’s over three months out from having last played. Plus, Zusi and Espinoza likely got practice time at left back, which could be huge.
What about Dany Rosero?
Rosero missed practice for the week following the elimination of St. Louis City and at least part of the next week before rejoining the team. He’s wearing a mask now and surely will in the game as well. Hopefully he can play all 90 (or 120) minutes because he’s probably the team’s best defender.
Danny Rosero was in training today. Easing him back in, but he looked pretty sharp, even in the mask. #SportingKC
— Daniel Sperry (@sperrydaniel94) November 20, 2023
Getting three weeks off between games probably benefited Rosero more than literally anyone else on the team. But both this and left back benefited substantially as there is little doubt in my mind Rosero wouldn’t have played the following weekend and Leibold surely wouldn’t have been as fit.
Kinda or Thommy?
It’s hard to say if Gadi Kinda got both starts against St. Louis because of tactics, Thommy being questionable or something else. But he grabbed it by the horns in the 4-1 road win and Peter Vermes rightfully stuck with him in the home game between those teams.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll start again against the Dynamo. For most of the year, I’ve stuck to my stance I like Kinda as a super sub off the bench to change games. Let him run at tired defenses and pull them apart. However, Vermes tends to not change what isn’t broken.
Then again, Ndenbe, Kinda and Salloi were the left sided players with all the chemistry and Ndenbe is already out. I could see Leibold being paired with fellow German Thommy to start on Sunday.
Rest of the Lineup
- I don’t anticipate any other changes.
- Pulido is definitely the striker and if the game calls for it, I could see Agada with him later on, versus ever replacing him.
- Russell and Salloi are definitely your wingers.
- Remi Walter and Nemanja Radoja should be the other two midfielders.
- And Fontas and Davis should remain unchanged in defense with Melia behind them.
Rest of the 20: Pulskamp, Espinoza, Agada, Castellanos, Voloder, Zusi, Shelton, Kinda, Hernandez
A few notes from the voting:
- Ndenbe got votes. Obviously, we should have removed him but that’s sad news for those 5.6 percent of folks who don’t know about that torn ACL. Patrick Mahomes tried to get the word out.
- I’m stunned Radoja only got 88.7 percent of the vote. Y’all, he is key!
- That Thommy/Kinda battle is real, and you all went slightly the other way.
- Of the midfielders, there were literally only two votes outside of the four guys below and they went to Gutierrez.
- Who voted for Ozzie Cisneros at winger and Johnny Russell at defense?
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 (100%)
Defenders: Rosero (98.6%), Davis (98.6%), Fontas (95.8%), Leibold (90.1%), Ndenbe (5.6%), Leibold/Voloder (7.0%)
Midfielders: Walter (94.4%), Radoja (88.7%), Kinda (57.7%), Thommy (53.5%)
Wingers: Salloi (98.6%), Russell (95.8%)
Strikers: Pulido (98.6%)