Week 2 of the Major League Soccer season is upon us and Orlando City is currently undefeated. The men in purple will try to keep it that way during their first road game of the season against Sporting Kansas City.
A match against SKC means that I talked with Cody Bradley, one of the editors of SBNation’s The Blue Testament. As usual, he did an excellent job of bringing us up to speed on what to expect from Sporting Kansas City.
SKC got its season started off well with a 2-1 win, all while big names like Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell began the game on the bench. How did Sporting look while playing without them for the majority of the game?
Cody Bradley: It was a pleasant surprise, for sure. Even without the two injuries you mentioned, there were already several big questions going into the season. A teenager was given the No. 10 reins, a new center back replacing a club legend paired with another center back who disappointed fans in previous years, and a new player in the all-important defensive midfield position as well. When Pulido & Russell were left out, all bets were off. But I was definitely happy with the way everything came together. The new guys look to be up to the task in MLS and should only improve from there. Plus Gianluca Busio did well in a new role and Daniel Salloi got a goal in place of the missing starters on the front line. So I am VERY happy with the way things turned out last week, and even more optimistic about the season than before it started.
What were the major off-season signings for Kansas City? Were there any key departures?
CB: The real key departure was Matt Besler. The local KC kid and longtime captain is now wearing a new shirt. But in all fairness, his playing time had already dropped significantly. Another departure was Felipe Gutierrez, but he was out the entire season last year, so it doesn’t feel like as much of a loss. Speedy winger Gerso Fernandes also left the team in the off-season.
Nicolas Isimat-Mirin is the new center back signing. He played all 90 minutes and I was pleased with what I’ve seen so far. Izzy, as he’s known, has enough speed and plays with a strong confidence. Remy Walter was brought in to the midfield core. He looks to have taken the job from fan favorite Ilie Sanchez. It’s a very demanding role in the Peter Vermes’ system, but Walter proved to be a workhorse in his first appearance.
How do you expect the team to play this year? What are your expectations for the season?
CB: It’s just so hard to say right now. If everything works out the way we hope, then the team will compete for the top of the West like they normally do. But rarely does everything go as planned. I think the starters in the attacking core are very strong. Pulido is one of the best goal scorers in MLS. But there are some still questions about depth beyond the starting lineup when it comes to forwards. Italian clubs want him, but is Busio ready to be one of the top playmakers in MLS? And just how good are the new guys? So it’s possible SKC will be back near the top of MLS again, but a lot needs to go right
Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
CB: John Pulskamp; Jaylin Lindsey, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Andreu Fontas, Amadou Dia; Remi Walter, Gadi Kinda, Gianluca Busio; Khiry Shelton, Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell.
I’m forever an optimist with this team, so I’m adding both Pulido & Russell back into the XI. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Salloi started on the wing again. As for a prediction... back at home in front of (some) real fans? Sporting KC will be fired up and get a 3-2 win.
Big thanks again to Cody for the great info on Sporting KC. Vamos Orlando!