The 2021 season kicks off on Saturday!!
When: Saturday, April 17, 2020 at 7:00 PM CT
Where: Red Bull Arena
How to Watch/Stream: | Bally Sports Kansas City (regionally) | Bally Sports Midwest (regionally) | ESPN+ (out of market)
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish)
Saturday brings the start of the 2021 regular season for Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls. Sporting KC haven’t played a competitive match since December 3, 2020. That’s 135 days, or over four months. The Red Bulls are even worse, having been bounced in the playoffs by the Columbus Crew, the eventual MLS Cup winners, about two weeks prior. Because of COVID and CBA negotiations, the start of the season was delayed and the competitions will be somewhat compressed throughout 2021 (MLS, US Open, CCL, Leagues Cup).
If you’ve spent the last few months completely checked out of soccer, the roster is going to look a lot different. Gone are Matt Besler, Felipe Gutierrez, Gerso Fernandes, Erik Hurtado, Winston Reid and others. In are French signings Remi Walter and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (aka Isi) and a bunch of under the radar Homegrown signings (for more details on all the moves minus the recent Kaveh Rad signing, we’ve got you covered).
Despite all the moves, the majority of the “starters” who ended the season are back. Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell will be asked to lead the line, Gianluca Busio will wear the #10 and be asked to perform up to that number and carry the midfield. Plus others like, Khiry Shelton, Gadi Kinda, Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza and more are all back and ready to contribute. There are still many questions along the back line, with the only real addition being Isimat-Mirin, so questions will begin to be answered Saturday.
RBNY’s 2020 Results
The New York Red Bulls finished 6th in an admittedly weaker Eastern Conference in 2020 (I won’t act like I wasn’t surprised it was that high). They sat on 32 points (compared to 39 by KC in two less games) and were tied with 7th and 8th place Nashville SC and the New England Revolution. As mentioned above, they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by eventual champions, the Columbus Crew. Nothing to be ashamed of there, that’s a good team.
What’s Changed for RBNY Since 2020?
The Red Bulls are still all-in on the youth movement. In addition to the changes below, they also have a new coach. Austrian Gerhard Struber is known for his high-pressing system… sound familiar?
OUT: Center backs Tim Parker and Patrick Seagrist were traded to Houston and Miami respectively. Midfielder Marc Rzatkowski (who’s burned KC before) had his option declined and a few other low contributing players are gone, including new SKC backup keeper, Kendall McIntosh.
Technically Kaku is still on the roster, but all indications are he’s basically gone. Good riddance.
IN: Striker Fabio Roberto Gomes Netto is possibly the biggest addition. He played in the Brazilian second-tier and scored at a good clip. They’ve also added Andres Reyes from Atletico Nacional (Columbia). He was on loan with Inter Miami in 2020 and made 13 starts. RBNY also added attacking fullback Tom Edwards from Stoke City (England) to push Kyle Duncan at right back.
Additionally, they also added 18-year-old midfielder Wikelman Carmona from Dynamo FC Margarita (Venezuela), acquired a few players on loan from their sister club RB Salzburg (GK Carlos Coronel and Midfielder Youba Diarra), signed some more Homegrowns and added Cameron Harper via transfer from Celtic.
All of this is to say, their roster is full of unknowns. Really young unknowns.
OUT – Graham Zusi (foot surgery)
QUESTIONABLE – Johnny Russell (ankle), Gadi Kinda (unknown), Alan Pulido (whatever caused him to miss matches in Mexico), Daniel Salloi (abductor strain)
*This will be updated as more information becomes available. As of this writing, no injury report has been released, so this is conjecture based on the last preseason update. There is even a rumor Tim Melia is hurt (no links to protect the innocent), so let’s hope there is no truth to that.
OUT – Unknown
QUESTIONABLE – Unknown
Starting XI Predictions
Peter Vermes has a press conference which will provide a clearer picture of who is available and an additional story will come out with a complete analysis of all 11 starting spots (plus some backup guesses) before the weekend.
More than just a single game in a 34-game schedule is on the line. The result in this game, as well as the match-ups against Orlando City and Real Salt Lake, will determine if Sporting qualify for the 2021 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Vermes loves to win trophies so I’m confident he’ll have the boys ready to go in the season opener.
That doesn’t mean the Red Bulls, who will be at home, won’t also be ready too. But they have a new coach and lots of new (young) players. They are always a tough out but it feels like a game Sporting should win. Now if as many Sporting players are out as were hurt in the last preseason game (Pulido, Russell, Kinda, Salloi) then Sporting could have a hard time.
If Sporting are mostly healthy, they will win. If they are missing a bunch of these players, be happy with a draw. I’ll predict the draw to account for what are likely more than a couple injuries we’ve yet to have confirmed.
What do you think? Predictions in the comments are welcome. Let’s chat about it.
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