With only three substitutes available in competitive matches, managers have to be judicious in their choices of who goes in and when.
Sporting Kansas City manager has added another “W” question on more than one occasion this season: whether to use his full complement of substitutions at all.
In 11 of Kansas City’s 30 competitive outings so far this year -- eight times in MLS play and three times in Sporting’s drive to the U.S. Open Cup title -- Vermes has used two or fewer subs.
That list includes Sporting’s shootout victory over Seattle in the Open Cup final, when Vermes made no substitutions in regulation and only two in extra time, and a one-substitution stat sheet in Kansas City’s 2-0 semifinal win over the Philadelphia Union.
“Sometimes I don’t like messing with the continuity unless someone is really struggling physically or someone is not in form,” Vermes said after making just two substitutions in the closing minutes of Saturday’s 1-0 away win over Toronto FC.
The strategy has worked more often than not this season. Sporting are 6-4-1 when making fewer than three substitutions, with four of those victories decided after the 80th minute and two after the 90th.
On Saturday in Toronto, Vermes didn’t make a personnel move until after Kei Kamara’s game-winning goal in the 83rd minute. Only then did he go to the bench, bringing on C.J. Sapong for Kamara in the 86th minute and Lawrence Olum for defensive midfielder Julio Cesar in the 88th.
“I didn’t think that anybody was struggling on the field,” Vermes said. “Before we scored I was actually going to make a sub, I changed it around a little bit for tactical reasons, but I think at the end the two guys that came in did really well for us.”