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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution at Sporting KC National TV Edition

The defending Shield winners are 11th in the East while Peter Vermes and SKC find themselves in dead last in the West.

SOCCER: APR 27 MLS - New England Revolution at Sporting Kansas City Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At the beginning of the year, a match-up featuring the New England Revolution traveling to Sporting Kansas City seemed pretty good. The reigning Supporter’s Shield winners of the East against one of the most consistently good teams in the West.

But today on national television on ABC at 3pm EDT, Children’s Mercy Park will feature two teams that are very far off from where they expect to be and with out a lot of the star power that could improve this game.

Knowing this game was going to be in the middle of an international window, it was always likely the Revs were going to be without Matt Turner and Adam Buksa but both players are now officially on their way overseas with Buksa’s move to FC Lens in France now official and Turner leaving for Arsenal after a send off game later this month.

Sporting KC’s troubles have to do with long term injuries, with two Designated Players in Alan Pulido and Gabi Kinda both recovering from knee surgeries and Kinda already on the season ending injury list. With Daniel Salloi and Marinos Tzionis both away on international duty, this leaves an already shorthanded and under-preforming team in SKC in a dire situation trying to save their season against a New England team that is unbeaten in their last five though have just nine points from that stretch with two wins and three draws.

SKC are still a solid home side and the Blue Hell is still something that should be respected as 11 of SKC’s 13 total points have come at home. It’s an odd form chart for SKC, who have just one win in their last ten matches going back to the beginning of April, a 2-1 win over the Rapids on May 18th. After a two win/six loss start to the season, SKC has lost just two of their last seven...but have just seven points from those seven games as there’s been a lot of draws around a massive 7-2 pasting against the Timbers mixed in. SKC is still averaging less than a point per game in 2022 and only Chicago has a worse PPG number than SKC so far this year.

If New England is going to make significant strides in the Eastern standings however, this is a game they need to win. New England has options to fill the gaps left by Turner and Buksa in young keeper Djordje Petrovic and of course the returning to full fitness Gustavo Bou up top and a financial war chest to perhaps fix a lot of things during the summer window. The gap left by the injured Henry Kessler today however might be the most problematic as the Revs have leaked goals this year without their starting centerback pairing.

SKC however might just have to ride out this perfect storm that has led them to the basement. As always, we chat with our good friend Cody Bradley from The Blue Testament about all the unfortunate happenings going on at SKC, who if anyone can save their offense, and whether or not Johnny Freaking Russell can single-handedly will a sinking ship to float.

Of course JFR can do that, he’s JFR. Hopefully he starts bailing out water on Monday though after the Revs leave. Be sure to check out my answers to Cody’s questions over on their site.

TBM: SKC has gone from winning the West in the 2020 COVID season, finishing third last year, and now finds themselves in the basement? What happened?

CB: With such a huge swing, it’s obviously a mixture of several things. But the biggest issue has been injuries. Two in particular. Arguably the team’s two best players are out for the season. Striker Alan Pulido had knee surgery in the offseason. Sporting KC was hopeful Gadi Kinda would play eventually, but the midfielder also ended up having knee surgery at the end of April. There have been plenty of other injuries this season to make things worse. But as Technical Director Peter Vermes deserves scrutiny for the roster construction this year. In hindsight, it is painfully clear more depth was needed. This has (of course) led to calls for “Fire Vermes” from part of the fan base. I am nowhere near that camp, but this is definitely the worst season and darkest time for this club in over a decade.

TBM: SKC is last in the West in scoring and has given up the second most goals...of these two problems, which might be easier to fix - the offense or the defense?

CB: It is strange to say, but the backline is really the only place I’m not too concerned. The defense needed the beginning of the season to find the right combinations, but there’s actually been a lot to like from this core. Kortne Ford got the chance to step in after an injury to Nicholas Isimat-Mirin, and he’s been great. There’s also two new U22 Internationals that I’ll mention later. The real problem there has been isolated, individual mistakes. Momentary lapses in judgement. But they have the players & skills to improve on that front.

When it comes to the SKC attack, it just simply feels like the talent isn’t there. Reinforcements are needed. Other teams are better. It’s like that. And that is a difficult thing for the fans to watch after so many years of sustained success.

TBM: Let’s end on a high note, despite the team’s struggles in the standings, give us a player or two that has impressed or been a bright spot in an otherwise dark time.

CB: The club brought in three U22 Internationals this season and all three have shown plenty of promise. On the backline, we have Belgian right back Logan Ndenbe. Best calves in Major League Soccer. German Robert Voloder has had a few ugly, youthful mistakes, but there’s a lot to like from him. The last one is our flashy Cypriot, Marinos Tzionis. He features mainly on the wing and brings a certain bite to the attack. He’s only just started getting his feet wet, but he has the potential to do some real damage in this league.

Then of course there’s Johnny Russel. JFR. Our Captain. He’s put this team on his back, scratching and clawing for every single inch. It feels like he has played every minute this season. In these dark days, Johnny has a passion & will to fight that makes you remember why you like soccer.

Lineup/Injuries/Predictions

Melia - Zusi - Ford - Fontas - Ndenbe - Rosell - Hernandez - Walter - Duke - Shelton - Russell

Salloi & Tzionis are out for international duty. Striker Nikola Vujnovic is questionable. Pludio, Kinda, & Cisneros are out.

2-1 Sporting KC win!