KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Davy Arnaud wanted to make one thing crystal clear: He isn’t making excuses.
Leg cramps certainly aren’t to blame for Sporting Kansas City's late meltdown that allowed Vancouver to come back from a 3-0 deficit last weekend. They aren’t a damning indication of Sporting’s fitness, either.
But hamstring cramps are the reason both Arnaud and central defender Júlio César were forced to be substituted on Saturday, and both Kansas City’s captain and manager Peter Vermes pointed to Empire Field’s turf as the culprit.
“They had a lot of the black rubber in there,” Arnaud said. “It was very thick. It was like running in sand. When you have that many guys cramp up, it’s not a fitness issue. I haven’t had my hamstring cramp like that since I was probably 14 years old.”
[inline_node:332736]Both Vermes and Arnaud said the volume of rubber padding in the playing surface was higher than the other artificial surfaces in Major League Soccer.
And although Arnaud and Cesar were the only casualties from a substitution standpoint, Vermes said Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, C.J. Sapong and Milos Stojcev all had issues as well, leaving Kansas City with a disadvantage as the Whitecaps searched for an equalizer late in the game.
“It took a toll on us over the course of the 95 minutes of the game,” Vermes said. “We kind of knew it was going to come, but we didn’t expect that many [to cramp]. When Toronto went there to play, they had the same symptoms.”
And while those symptoms forced the team’s most experienced players off the field, Arnaud maintained that it was no excuse for the final result. Cramps or not, Arnaud said, Sporting KC should have been able to walk away with all three points.
“It was unfortunate that [the cramping] started happening,” Arnaud said. “Not that it was the reason for what happened, but it didn’t help us.”
Mravec no longer with team, Colley status in the air
After hanging around with Kansas City for the entire preseason and the season’s first few weeks, Vermes said supplemental draft pick Michal Mravec has been released by the team.
Omar Colley, an 18-year-old defender who has also been trialing with the club, should have an idea what his future holds soon as well. Vermes said Kansas City would like to sign Colley to a deal but were having issues with the Gambian’s former club requesting compensation that Sporting KC weren’t willing to provide.
Vermes said Colley wasn’t currently under contract. He would take up an international roster spot.
“There are some issues with his club,” Vermes said. “That will be determined pretty shortly because I’m not waiting around [on his club]. Either they want to do it or they don’t. If they don’t, I completely understand, and we’ll just move on.”
Smith getting closer to return
Ryan Smith, who is still recovering from an offseason knee surgery, will begin to ease into training with the team over the next two weeks.
After a number of setbacks and issues with ongoing soreness and pain, Smith appears to be close to turning the corner from a fitness perspective, but Vermes said the training staff would continue to approach his return cautiously.
Smith said he hoped to be training fully in the next week or two, and Vermes said the shifty winger would likely be given days off following sessions to allow his body to acclimate to full contact and the increased intensity of workouts.