As it welcomes the Eastern Conference leaders to Sporting Park on Sunday, Sporting Kansas City will pilot its way through a shorthanded roster.
Aurelien Collin, Sal Zizzo and C.J. Sapong will miss Sunday’s match against the Columbus Crew, manager Peter Vermes said.
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While injuries will hold Zizzo and Sapong out of the lineup, Collin will serve a mandatory one-game suspension after receiving the first straight red card of his career during Saturday’s loss at New England.
Although Vermes and Collin reiterated this week they disagreed with the call — which referee Alan Kelly made after Collin made a dangerous challenge on New England’s Diego Fagundez — the club will not appeal it.
“I disagree with the decision of the referee. It could have been a dangerous foul, but in the worst case (scenario), you give a yellow,” Collin said. “It was my first foul, I’m not the last defender (back), and I don’t go too hard at the guy, so it should only be a yellow. That’s why I was very upset.”
Collin has garnered a reputation around the league for his physical play, which Sporting KC believes played a factor in the red card Saturday.
“The difference is the guy’s not dirty; he’s a physical player. There’s a big difference between the two, “ Vermes said. “He shouldn’t get evaluated differently because he’s a physical guy. It’s very unfair.”
It’s a big absence for Sporting KC, which is already thin in the center of its back line. Top central defender backup Ike Opara had season-ending surgery on his right ankle earlier this month.
Lawrence Olum will likely get the start alongside Matt Besler, leaving 17-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown as the next available option. Palmer-Brown, who has never appeared in an MLS match, will be on the bench Sunday and available for selection.
“He would have to be,” Vermes said. “He’s one of the guys that’s going to be ready for that position. There’s other guys that could play there, but he kind of makes sense.”
Zizzo’s injury will force another reshuffling of the lineup. His string of six straight starts will come to an end Sunday.
Sapong would be a logical replacement for Zizzo in the starting lineup, but he isn’t ready to return from neck and back soreness that has kept him out of the lineup since March 22. Sapong re-joined the club for its training sessions this week, though he is working solo drills on the side.
Zizzo said he “felt a pull” in his groin muscle Saturday but has been pain-free while riding a stationary bike this week.
“No pain, but we’re going to take it easy,” Zizzo said.
With Zizzo and Sapong out, Toni Dovale, Jacob Peterson or Soony Saad could see a spot start Sunday. Dovale and Peterson have each made one start this season. Saad is yet to appear in a match this season after making 15 starts last year.