As the calendar flips to June, the Dynamo have their sights on an extended break with international tournaments on the horizon. But there’s one game to take care of before some players head off to their national teams (and some head off to the pool to relax) as old rivals Sporting Kansas City pay a visit to BBVA Compass Stadium.
To get an inside look at SKC, I talked to my old friend Jimmy Mack of The Blue Testament and No Other Pod.
Dynamo Theory: Sporting Kansas City has struggled mightily this season with injuries. After a game on Wednesday night with further injury concerns, who is unavailable for SKC on Saturday night?
The Blue Testament: First off, the good news is that some key contributors are beginning to return from injury. Forward Daniel Salloi made his return as a substitute after fighting through a groin injury, while RB Graham Zusi (oblique) and CB Andreu Fontas (calf) both returned to the starting lineup. It looked like things might be turning around for SKC on the injury front, until CB Botond Barath had to be subbed out at halftime of Wednesday’s game with a hamstring injury. Matt Besler was supposed to rest as he is working his way back from injury himself, but he was forced into duty for the injured Barath. LB Jimmy Medranda made his second appearance of the season as a substitute after missing nearly a year with a knee injury.
LW Gerso Fernandes, Sporting KC’s fastest player, continues to be sidelined due to a broken wrist. Striker Erik Hurtado (knee), RB Jaylin Lindsey (meniscus), and midfielder Roger Espinoza (PCL) all remain unavailable due to long-term injuries of their own.
Geez... I think that’s it? For now at least?
DT: After a quick start to the season Sporting has struggled in May. Besides injuries what have been some causes for the poor form over the last month?
TBT: If you ask Peter Vermes, the biggest problem has simply been schedule congestion. Take this week as a perfect example: Sporting KC played late on Sunday night against the Seattle Sounders. Just two days later on Wednesday night they hosted the LA Galaxy, who hadn’t played since the previous Friday and were on two more days rest than SKC. Now Saturday night Sporting travels to take on the Dynamo who had a full week of rest. That’s not quite the ideal situation for a team that’s already been dealing with injuries.
Advancing deep in the Concacaf Champions League didn’t help the scheduling issue, either. Constant travel to and from Mexico in the midweek made it nearly impossible for Sporting KC to get any consistent rest between league games. What seemed like a deep team to start the year simply became paper thin between constant games and injuries.
Add into that the red card suspension—plus the additional game added by DisCo—of striker Krisztian Nemeth and it’s been a recipe for disaster. Between the Hurtado injury and Nemeth suspension, Sporting KC had literally zero strikers available for the last two games. While do-everything DP Yohan Croizet was pretty solid in the false nine position against Seattle, he wasn’t able to recreate his success against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday night.
DT: The Dynamo have proven to be a tough team to beat at BBVA Compass Stadium. How do you think Sporting match up with the Dynamo and what will they need to do on Saturday night to be successful and leave Houston with points?
TBT: Thankfully for Sporting KC they’ll have a fully rested Krisztian Nemeth at striker, who will be returning from his two-game red card suspension. It’s also a huge blessing that SKC likely won’t have to face Alberth Elis on the right wing, as he would go straight at the MUCH slower LB Seth Sinovic.
Since Matt Besler returned from injury the back line has looked much more organized, so I’m not too worried about the defense. The real question here is which Sporting KC midfield will show up? Some games, Felipe Gutierrez looks like an all-star caliber No. 10, while others he looks frustrated and a bit disorganized. Ilie Sanchez and Benny Feilhaber will likely lineup alongside Felipe in the midfield, and if the trio is able to successfully link the back line to the attack then Sporting KC could come away with a result. If they disappear, as they’ve been known to do a few times this year, then it will be a game filled with long balls from the back line hoping to find a streaking Nemeth or Russell—and it likely won’t and well for Sporting KC.
The most difficult matchup for Sporting KC may not even be someone on the field Saturday night, but rather the heat and humidity. With the temperature looking like it may be near 90 degrees with 60 percent humidity at kickoff, that may be the biggest factor working against a less-than-fit Sporting KC squad.
I’d like to thank Jimmy for taking the time to answer my questions. You can check out my answers to his Dynamo related questions at The Blue Testament.