Sporting KC: What to know before season opener vs New York Red Bulls

Jaylin Lindsey, Sporting KC (Photo by Fernando Leon/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
Jaylin Lindsey, Sporting KC (Photo by Fernando Leon/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

Sporting KC opens up their regular season at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. Here is what you need to know.

Major League Soccer is back this weekend, and Sporting Kansas City‘s Week 1 matchup is on the road against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. There is no consensus as to how SKC will fair this season, but a win on the road would be a good start.

This is not the first time these two sides have met on the opening weekend. SKC drew 1-1 with them on the opening weekend in 2015 when Sporting Park was still the name of the stadium. Their most recent meeting came on matchday seven of 2019 when they played out to a 2-2 draw at CMP. In Sporting’s last visit to Red Bull Arena, on matchday 20 of 2018, the Red Bulls won 3-2.

Since those meetings, a lot has changed for both teams and Saturday’s match will be completely different. Let’s take a look at what you need to know, which includes some big injury news for SKC.

Early Regular Season Means More for Sporting KC

The first three weeks of MLS will have more at stake this season. The eight US-based MLS teams with the highest points per game after the first three weeks will qualify for the 2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

For Sporting, we know that they will take their first three games very seriously to qualify for the Open Cup. After the visit to New York, SKC will have their home opener against Orlando City before their third game is away against Real Salt Lake.

Rebuilding Red Bulls

The days of the Red Bulls being led by players like Bradley-Wright Philips and Sacha Kljestan are long gone now. This team is much younger and inexperienced under head coach Gerhard Struber, who took over as manager for the playoffs last season. The Red Bulls don’t seem to be a contender for Supporters’ Shield or MLS Cup entering this season.

For Sporting, that doesn’t mean that Saturday’s game will be easy. It is the first game of the season, and in a league as unpredictable as MLS, anything can happen. One thing is for sure- the pressure is on Sporting to go to New York and get a result. They don’t necessarily have to play great soccer, but anything less than a tie would be a disappointment.

Injury News and Sporting’s New Look

Speaking during a press conference on Thursday, SKC manager Peter Vermes revealed that SKC will be shorthanded. He stated that star striker Alan Pulido is available, but not 90 minutes fit. He also said that first-choice goalkeeper Tim Melia is out, alongside other keepers Kendall McIntosh and Brooks Thompson.

Vermes said that Melia will be replaced by 19-year-old John Pulskamp, who will get his first-ever minutes with SKC’s first team, and they will add another keeper on a short-term loan as his backup for the trip to New York. As for Pulido, Wilson Harris will likely be his replacement.

Sporting KC will look different this season. Without Matt Besler around, Johnny Russell will have the captain’s armband while 18-year-old Gianluca Busio will wear the highly coveted number 10 jersey.

Perhaps most interestingly, Sporting acquired a pair of Frenchmen, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Remi Walter. Isimat-Mirin is expected to be one of the starting center backs, but will he be enough to be the cure for their defensive struggles? Walter will be in the midfield mix and can play in a variety of different roles.

Weird Matchup

Everything is shaping up for a weird matchup on Saturday evening. On paper, Sporting is clearly the better side, however, with likely two new additions from the offseason in the lineup and the latest injury news, things could be a little disjointed.

Saturday’s game will likely be a bit sloppy and maybe a little slow. At this point with the latest injury news, I think any sort of positive result would be acceptable until you can get Melia back. As long as Sporting can keep things under control, they should be fine.