Preview: Sporting KC v DC United

Sporting KC end their home stand with a visit from DC United at Children’s Mercy Park.

Friday, May 27, 2016, at 6:00 PM CST (UniMas/KMCI-TV), Sporting Kansas City finish their three game home stand by hosting DC United. The stretch of home games contained a record-breaking match against Orlando City and a swift return to earth in a crushing defeat to hated rival Real Salt Lake.

The story line of this game could take many shapes. It could be all the absences that Sporting KC are dealing with, the lack of scoring from the team in the last two months, tomorrow’s weather forecast or the return of Bill Hamid for DC United.

For me, it’s the broken roster that will take the field for Sporting KC. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Soni Mustivar are all out on international duty in preparation for next week’s Copa America Centario. Roger Espinoza has been suspended for “violent conduct” last in the loss to Real Salt Lake.

May 21, 2016; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza (27) collides with Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman (5) in the first half of the match at Children

I’ve watched the video of the Espinoza foul and I question if it’s even a yellow card. Everyone is grabbing in the box on set pieces and this was no different. To me it looked like a flop from Sunny as he jumped up immediately after wasting a bunch of time and was ready to return to the field. When RSL went up in the first half they started stalling and faking injuries so early in the game and this is just a continuation of that.

This match-up is a pivotal one for both clubs. They are both currently 7th in their respective conferences, but Sporting KC are in the impossibly difficult Western Conference and all these lost points in April and May are sure to haunt them come September and October. The lifetime series between these clubs is tied 20-20-12 all-time. With the teams now in opposite conferences, this will be their only meeting this season (unless they meet in the US Open or MLS Cup [HA!]).

In recent history Sporting are struggling with DC United. They are winless in their last four meetings (0-2-2) and of those, they have a 0-3 loss in the only home meeting at Children’s Mercy Park. On a brighter note, in 2016 Sporting KC are 3-0 against the Eastern Conference and since moving back to the West last season they have yet to lose at home (6-0-1).

Suspended:  

– Sporting KC: Roger Espinoza (Disciplinary Committee Decision)

– DC United: None

Suspended Next Yellow Card:

– Sporting KC: None

– DC United: Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum

Injuries:

– Sporting KC:

OUT: None!

QUESTIONABLE: Kevin Ellis (groin injury), Justin Mapp (turf toe), Seth Sinovic (groin injury)

– DC United:

QUESTIONABLE: Andrew Dykstra (back surgery), Chris Korb (right ACL tear), Collin Martin (foot injury), Chris Rolfe (concussion)

PROBABLE: Bill Hamid (torn meniscus)

Sporting Kansas City’s Last Five: D/L/L/W/L

DC United’s Last Five: W/T/L/W/L

Goal Leader(s):

– Sporting KC:  Dom Dwyer (6)

– DC United: Alvaro Saborio (4)

May 15, 2016; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting KC starters pose for a photo before the game against Orlando City SC at Children

Starting XI Prediction:

Melia

Myers – Coelho – Opara – Dia

Feilhaber – Olum – Nagamura

Medranda – Dwyer – Davis

Rest of the 18: Kann, Rubio, Hallisey, Peterson, Mapp, Quintilla, Abdul-Salaam

With the Copa America underway next week, Sporting KC will be without Besler, Mustivar and Zusi through at least June 11th. If the United States and Haiti are eliminated those three could conceivably only miss two games (this one and the LA Galaxy on June 2nd).

Besler and Mustivar will be tough to replace. Luckily Nuno Coelho has been the better player between him and Besler this season so the drop off to Ike Opara isn’t much (if there is a drop off at all). The same cannot be said for Mustivar being replaced by Lawrence Olum. Mustivar may be the most important player on the pitch, so that will hurt. Since Jordi Quintilla has been recalled from the Swope Park Rangers, I’d like to see him over Olum, but I doubt that happens.

Espinoza being out will hurt too. I’m not sure that Paulo Nagamura is 90-minutes fit, but he makes the most sense to replace Roger Espinoza. With Zusi out, Medranda likely moves back to the wing and Amadou Dia will have a chance to win back his left back job he held most of the season.

Overall, I’m just impressed that Sporting KC have enough players to still fill out the full 18-man game day roster with four players out and likely at least two (Sinovic and Ellis) potentially out with injury. That’s a sharp turn from last season when injuries decimated the team and the bench sat half empty.

May 8, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United midfielder Nick DeLeon (14) reacts after missing a shot on New York City FC goalkeeper Josh Saunders (12) in the first half at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. New York City FC won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Having said all that, DC United are terrible. They haven’t won a road game since August 19, 2015 and that was in the CONCACAF Champions League. They are without Saborio and Steven Birnbaum who are arguably two of their most important players.

Another factor that we should all consider. Jurgen Klinsmann is in town as the USMNT play a friendly the next day in Kansas City. Benny Feilhaber may want to give one last impressive performance. There is no saying he cannot be on point delivering balls to Dwyer, Medranda and Davis and putting a few shots on frame for himself.

The last unknown is the weather. Kansas City is currently being thrashed by storms and DC United’s flight was grounded so they won’t even arrive until game day. If they arrive they will be tired. The field could become a sloppy mess. Despite the fact that these teams are 17th (DC United) and 18th (SKC) in goals scored per game, I’m thinking it’s a wild sloppy game on Spanish television where the announcers will be screaming GOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLL a ton.

Prediction: 3-2 Sporting KC

Let’s hope it’s right. If Kansas City is still standing after these storms, head to the stadium and chant your hearts out and help will Sporting KC back to the win column.