Sporting KC players "put a lot of time and effort into" crucial CCL, league matches this week
Sporting Kansas City are still part of a crowded field of Supporters' Shield contenders going into Saturday's regular-season finale at Philadelphia. But before that, they need to earn at least a draw on Wednesday at home against Honduras' CD Olimpia in their final match of CONCACAF Champions League play (8 pm ET; Fox Soccer Plus).
With two key matches in just four days, manager Peter Vermes said he's still weighing roster options for Wednesday night.
“The good thing is that between our last game and this next one, there's five days,” he said, “but then it's going to be a short turnaround as regards to going and playing. We just have to be ready to play that game. Everybody's going to have to put a lot of time and effort into it, because obviously there's a lot of significance to it.
“We've got to be ready for both of them,” Vermes added, “but this game on Wednesday is the one we've got to be focused on right now. The other one, the rest of it, we just can't think about that yet.”
Sporting are still unbeaten in CCL qualifying but turned in a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Nicaragua's Real Estelí in September in their last regional outing. And though they need only a point to advance to next year's group stage, Vermes said, Kansas City will go for all three.
“We have to be disciplined, hungry, recognize the moments of the game and manage them well,” he said. “But we have to come to play. We can't come just to hang on by any means.”
And besides giving Sporting a chance to reach next year's knockout stage, Vermes said, Wednesday's match offers his club a chance to stay in a competitive mindset going into the weekend.
“All these games help you get into a rhythm, especially when you have such a short turnaround,.and that part I like,” he said. “I think at this time of the year, the guys would rather be playing in games than training. They've had enough of that grind.”
Midfielder Paulo Nagamura is inching closer to getting back on Sporting's matchday roster. It's just not likely to be in either of this week's crucial matches.
“He's running and everything,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “I just hope that by the time the playoffs start, that he'll be ready for selection.”
Nagamura has been recovering from a left ankle strain, missing five league matches since his most recent appearance in early September, and injuries have limited him to 17 MLS appearances this season.