Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes trusted his backups to deliver a road result, and they did.
Vermes — whose team is in the midst of a 14-day, five-match stretch — went backup-heavy against Seattle on Wednesday night and saw his patchwork lineup come away with a 1-1 draw that extended Sporting’s unbeaten streak to four straight games in league play and six in all competitions.
“I thought the effort from those guys was outstanding,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the chippy draw, which ended with Seattle reduced to 10 men after midfielder Álvaro Fernández was issued a straight red card for a tackle from behind on Sporting’s Roger Espinoza. “At the end of the day, it was a great team effort to pull out of here with a point.”
Full Highlights: SEA 1, SKC 1
Vermes gave three players — forward Soony Saad and midfielders Peterson Joseph and Michael Thomas — their first career MLS starts. Saad came close to delivering a game-winner, but his shot in the 19th minute hit the crossbar.
Thomas, who went the full 90 in Julio Cesar’s usual defensive midfield spot, made his first appearance in any top-level competition for Sporting.
“He’s played well in reserve games and he’s worked hard in training,” Vermes said. “One thing I said to all the guys who were getting starts today: ‘You guys deserve it. You guys have worked for this. You should go into this thinking you deserve it. That’s why you’re out there and you’re going to do well.'
“The guys went out and fought for it and made a huge contribution to the team, based on the number of games we have in such a short period of time.”
And with a cross-continental trip and yet another short turnaround looming — a league match at Philadelphia on Saturday, followed by a home date against the Dayton Dutch Lions in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday — Vermes will continue to rely on role players and reserves.
“We’ve got to keep reaching down deep into the roster,” he said. “That’s how we’ve got to do it. We’ve got to do right by our players. They’re working hard, they’re recovering, and we’ll keep assessing game by game.”
Wednesday’s game also saw the return of right winger Kei Kamara from international duty with Sierra Leone. After a 38-hour plane trip to rejoin the team, Kamara came on for goalscorer Jacob Peterson after 65 minutes, as Vermes kept bringing on attacking players in an attempt to come away with all three points.
“We didn’t start him because we wanted him to be able to rest a bit,” Vermes said. “It was good to see him get those minutes at the end.”