Sporting KC: What we learned from first two preseason games

Sporting KC is in the heat of preseason. What have we learned about them so far? 

Sporting Kansas City defeated Phoenix Rising FC 4-0 on March 13 before suffering a 1-0 defeat against the Colorado Rapids on March 20.

SKC’s thumping of the Phoenix Rising was highlighted by a hat trick from Wilson Harris. SKC’s 1-0 loss came from a corner kick headed in from 37-year-old Rapids defender Drew Moor.

Here is how Sporting KC lined up for the five segments of preseason matches so far.

  • First period vs Phoenix Rising (30 minutes): Tim Melia; Jaylin Lindsey, Kaveh Rad, Andreu Fontas, Luis Martins; Ilie Sanchez, Gianluca Busio, Gadi Kinda; Johnny Russell, Wilson Harris, Daniel Salloi
  • Second period vs Phoenix Rising (30 minutes): Kendall McIntosh; Kayden Pierre, Roberto Puncec, Graham Smith, Amadou Dia; Felipe Hernandez, Jake Davis, Cam Duke; Grayson Barber, Wilson Harris (Dominik Resetar 46’), Khiry Shelton
  • Third period vs Phoenix Rising (30 minutes): John Pulskamp; Kayden Pierre, Matt Constant, Danny Barbir, Travian Sousa; Felipe Hernandez, Jake Davis, Cam Duke; Ozzie Cisneros, Dominik Resetar, Tyler Freeman
  • First half vs Colorado Rapids (45 minutes): Tim Melia; Jaylin Lindsey, Kaveh Rad, Andreu Fontas, Luis Martins; Ilie Sanchez, Gianluca Busio, Remi Walter (Gadi Kinda 31’); Johnny Russell, Alan Pulido, Daniel Salloi
  • Second half vs Colorado Rapids (45 minutes): John Pulskamp; Kayden Pierre, Matt Constant (Graham Smith 74’), Roberto Puncec; Felipe Hernandez, Cam Duke, Gadi Kinda (Tyler Freeman 52’); Grayson Barber, Wilson Harris, Khiry Shelton

Sporting’s final preseason match will come on Wednesday when they face the Portland Timbers.

With two preseason scrimmages behind closed doors under their belt, let’s take a look at three things we learned about Sporting KC.

Harris is the leading scorer

Wilson Harris, who signed towards the end of last season, scored a hat trick against Phoenix. Splitting the full 90 minutes with Dominik Resetar due to an injury to Alan Pulido, Harris took his opportunity with three goals in 45 minutes of action.

Other SKC Academy products made an impact, as Gianluca Busio notched a goal while Jake Davis added an assist. Newly named captain Johnny Russell provided a pair of assists to Harris as well.

It wasn’t a good look to see Pulido already injured again, keeping him sidelined against the Phoenix Rising, but he did return and play 45 minutes against Colorado.

Worried on the wing

It is pretty safe to say that Khiry Shelton and Johnny Russell are going to be the first-choice on the wings. Their replacements, however, are a different situation.

We could give Wilson Harris a shot, but he seems more comfortable as the center forward. Daniel Salloi is the most obvious choice, but he has scored just once in the past two seasons. In 75 minutes, he’s been kept at bay so far in this preseason. Grayson Barber will also be looking to push for some time on the wings before Vermes opts to put a player like Gianluca Busio on the wing.

I simply don’t see how SKC can be anywhere near a contender for MLS Cup unless Daniel Salloi breaks out of his awful spell of form. If SKC can’t find alternative wingers, I believe Vermes should return Graham Zusi to the wing when he returns from injury with Jaylin Lindsey securing the right-back position.

Defensive uncertainty

The other question involves the center-back pairing. So far, the most realistic center-back pairing would be Roberto Puncec and Graham Smith. The other notable partnership has been Andreu Fontas with SKC II’s Kaveh Rad, which doesn’t seem like a very likely situation this season.

With newly signed center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin still not in training, we may have to wait until opening day until we see his first action in Sporting blue, which will hopefully stabilize an unbalanced defense. Until he is ready to go, SKC’s defense will likely include Puncec and Fontas starting.

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The good news is that with a makeshift defense in front of him, Tim Melia still has yet to concede a goal in 75 minutes this preseason.