Sporting Kansas City apparently sounded more like a M.A.S.H. unit this week leading up to its game against Atlanta United at Children’s Mercy Park. Peter Vermes had to cancel training on Tuesday due to the lack of fit players, a day before it was announced that Gerso Fernandes needed surgery to repair a broken wrist. It’s a group that’s been banged up, and a group that’s struggled to get points after placing first in the Western Conference in 2018.
I had a chance to connect with Cody Bradley from our sister site, The Blue Testament, about tonight’s game. Cody was admittedly a little pessimistic about SKC’s chances, but was able to give some good insight into what to expect from tonight’s contest.
1. The injury bug has ravaged SKC in a big way, as you all over at The Blue Testament have written about. Who on Swope Park Rangers’ roster should we expect to see on Sunday if Peter Vermes needs to make that call?
A name you may already be aware of is Gedion Zelalem. He will at least be in the lineup for midfield depth with so many absences. I’m hoping Vermes does some other shuffling around, but we may see him on the field at some point. Another guy who could be making an appearance is Graham Smith. He was called upon last season but was a disappointment and pissed off Vermes in the process, so he hasn’t been back since. But he has played well for Swope Park and with the top two choices at CB dealing with injuries, and the next two choices playing poorly, it might be Smith’s chance to step up.
2. After advancing to the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Timbers last year as the top seed out of the West, the wins haven’t been as easy to come by, at least not yet. How much is that due to injury and how much is due to other factors?
The injuries have been the big issue for the last two matches, indeed. But prior to that Sporting KC was prioritizing the Concacaf Champions League. Vermes deployed a lineup almost entirely made up of 2nd string players at one point for an MLS game as he tried to deal with schedule congestion.
The 4-1 loss to San Jose was terrible. I have nothing positive I can say there. But outside of that match I don’t see the other results as too terrible. They are definitely in a slump and things just don’t go your way (like PRO Referees admitting a mistake that cost SKC 2 points last week) But I think this team, when healthy, is very good and capable of beating anyone in the league.
3. What does SKC need to do to come out with a victory on Sunday?
Yikes. It is going to take something of a miracle. First of all, someone is going to have to step up at centerback. Whoever is paired with Barath back there is going to have to play at a level much higher than we have seen them play before. The defense is in shambles at the moment and facing an incredibly talented attacking core.
Because of that, I’m just going to say it will rely on the Sporting KC attacking players. I’m assuming Atlanta are going to put up a few goals, but the likes of Krisztian Nemeth and Johnny Russell have the ability to put a team on their backs. Daniel Salloi is going to have to score another golazo (like the one in ATL last year) as he makes his first start in the abence of Gerso. This team can score goals in many different ways and that may offset the defensive woes going forward. I am expecting a very open match with a lot of goals.
(4-3-3) Melia, Sinovic, Barath, Smith, Zusi, Gutierrez, Rowe, Croizet, Salloi, Nemeth, Russell
I believe in miracles. And Daniel Salloi. Sporting KC 4 - 3 Atlanta United