Five games. Fifteen days. Three countries. Two competitions.
Every team has a stretch of games that can define a season. For Sporting KC, this upcoming stretch could not only impact their place in the Western Conference standings, but it could determine their fate in the 2016-17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.
In total, Sporting KC’s August will consist of six games that began last weekend with a road match at the Portland Timbers. The team will now travel to Texas for Saturday’s showdown against MLS leaders FC Dallas before opening the Champions League campaign on the road against Central FC of Trinidad and Tobago. Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes hopes to have some reinforcements available for this upcoming road trip.
“[Nuno Andre Coelho] is at a place where he is now available, same with Graham [Zusi],” Vermes told reporters after training on Wednesday. “[Matt Besler] is not available for selection yet and [Paulo Nagamura] is really close and might be available for Dallas.”
It’s no secret that Sporting KC has been beset by injuries over the past two months. At various points since the start of July, the team has been without Besler, Zusi, Nagamura, Coelho, Tim Melia, Brad Davis, Justin Mapp and Chance Myers due to injury. Throw in suspensions to Roger Espinoza and and Soni Mustivar for Saturday’s match in Dallas, and Vermes will have no shortage of lineup decisions to make over the coming days.
“A lot of it will depend on who is healthy,” Vermes said with regard to a potential midfield trio for Saturday. “I don’t want to give all the names but I think it’s easy to see. It could be [Lawrence] Olum, obviously Benny [Feilhaber] is still in there. After that it becomes a lot of different guys.”
Vermes hinted that call-ups from USL affiliate Swope Park Rangers could be likely for Tuesday’s match against Central FC, as he is not restricted to the hardship rule of regular season play. A Swope Park Rangers player can be signed to a short-term loan deal for Champions League play regardless of how many senior roster players are available for selection for that match. Vermes would not say which players are in contention for call-ups, but said it would be determined based off position of need.
The roster is not the only place that will see rotation over the coming days, however. Following Tuesday’s match against Central FC, Sporting KC will return home for a critical Western Conference match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Coincidentally, they will then hit the road following the match to face that same Whitecaps FC team in the Champions League. As a result of the congested schedule, Vermes said that assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin will likely stay in Kansas City this weekend to help prepare players for the coming slate of games.
“Kerry is probably going to stay back and train and get the guys that are here ready for the Trinidad and Tobago game,” Vermes told reporters. “We will then send guys back from Dallas and they will stay and get ready for the Vancouver game. So he’ll stay here for that as well because we have to keep those guys going. The biggest thing right now is just getting back from the injuries. That’s what is hurting us.”