If anything, Peter Vermes has come to terms with the unfortunate state Sporting Kansas City finds themselves in before hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening (7:30 p.m. CT | TV & streaming info).
Sporting has a laundry list of injuries that seems to grow every week because, well, it does. You could practically form a starting XI just from the players Vermes doesn’t have available for selection, and it’s largely why they’re on 10 points through as many games.
“We have to keep ourselves somewhere in this area of staying competitive to the group so we have a fighting chance as we get more and more guys back,” Vermes said. “The difficulties are at the moment, it’s worse before it gets better. Guys keep getting injured and the other guys who come back aren’t fully 90 minutes fit. That’s where the difficulty is.”
Some of the biggest names are center back Matt Besler (hamstring), center back Andreu Fontas (calf), right back Graham Zusi (oblique), center mid Roger Espinoza (knee) and winger Gerso Fernandes (wrist).
They all played integral roles as Sporting, earlier this year, made a run to the semifinals of the Concacaf Champions League before losing to Liga MX side Monterrey. With so many starters sidelined, Vermes remains confident that this 2-4-4 start can turn around as important pieces eventually return.
“You don’t come out playing the way we did early on in the season as well as we did to all of a sudden think you don’t have that same group,” Vermes said. “You have it, it’s just none of them are available. If you spend a lot of time with a group of guys, 11 guys, playing regularly, you can easily add in two or three guys here and there, which the rest of the group can support those changes.
“When you have to change six, seven, eight guys out of the lineup, now it has a big effect on the team. That’s the thing: We have no other choice. We have to deal with it.”
To add insult to injury, Sporting only dressed four substitutes (three field players) instead of the normal seven during last weekend’s 1-0 loss at D.C. United. The good news, Vermes said, is some inexperienced players are getting a full immersion into what MLS games require.
There’s also an extended viewing of veteran midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who was acquired via trade from the Colorado Rapids on May 8. Then teenage sensation Gianluca Busio will soon return from U.S. U-17 national team qualifiers.
“What’s great is he fit right back in pretty quickly,” Vermes said of Feilhaber. “He understands what we want to do. I also think his personality is something that’s needed at the moment, because he has a strong personality which is a really good thing. The team needs somebody like that on the field that has a strong personality to help them through the tough moments we’re in.”