PORTLAND, Ore. — Sporting KC will be out their star scorer on Monday’s season-opening match against the Portland Timbers.
Forward Johnny Russell is listed as out with a hamstring injury.
Head coach Peter Vermes said Russell injured his hamstring in the last few minutes of the team’s final preseason match and could be out for a few weeks.
“It’s incredibly unfortunate,” Vermes said. “If there’s one thing I’m not gonna do, is I’m not gonna try to turn certain injuries that we have right now into long-term, really long-term problems. It’s best for him to be out.”
Vermes expects players like Cam Duke, Khiry Shelton and Marinos Tzionis to step up in Russell’s absence. Russell has scored 48 goals in five seasons with Sporting, including eight in 2022.
Sporting will also be without defenders Kortne Ford (Achilles), Logan Ndenbe (hamstring) and midfielder Gadi Kinda while forward Alan Pulido is questionable after missing all of last season.
The Timbers will be without the team’s top scorer, Dairon Apsrilla, and their top goal contributor, Sebastian Blanco, from 2022 due to knee injuries, while Ivacic (hand) and left back Claudio Bravo (hamstring) are both questionable.
Veteran defender Graham Zusi and forward Will Agada both said the team looked good in training and they’re excited to start a fresh season after a strong end to last season.
“A lot of guys are coming in with a chip on their shoulder and that’s great to see,” Zusi said.
“So actually really exciting. It’s been a long time without seeing our fans and then now we’re so excited about coming back and then we get to start playing our games. So we’re really excited about this season,” Agada said.
The Nigerian forward provided a midseason spark as soon as he put on the double blue kit, when he scored eight goals in just 12 appearances. Agada said he doesn’t feel added pressure, he just wants to keep his scoring streak going into 2023.
“Coming back now, it’s really important.”
“With my heart, with my power, all my abilities I have and then of course to make the fans happy. I would not call it pressure. Like I said, it’s—just like—just being straight and I hope I will keep working hard just like last season and keep helping the team as much as possible.”
Zusi is entering his 14th year of professional soccer, every single year in Kansas City. He said he always has some butterflies in his stomach before the start of every game.
“There’s always that kind of nervous energy going into a match, not just the first match of the year, but each and every one. You know, I feel good about the game when I’m going in without feeling so. I think once that excitement and that butterfly feeling goes away, it might be time to hang it up but that’s certainly not the truth at this point.”
SKC faces Portland at 9 p.m. on Monday.