Sporting arrives in Florida: Peter Vermes excited for start of MLS is Back Tournament

Sporting Kansas City arrived to Florida on Sunday night for the MLS is Back Tournament, which will kick off Wednesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World Resort. Today will see Sporting take the field for their first training session inside the proverbial Disney bubble, six days ahead of the club’s curtain raiser against Minnesota United FC next Sunday at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN app.

Vermes conducted a video press conference this morning with local and national media. His remarks are below.


On Sporting’s trip from Kansas City to Orlando…

Everything so far has been really good. We left yesterday, no hiccups at the airport, everyone was on time, the flight was great. We got in (to Orlando), the busses were right there, we went straight to the hotel, went in and did our testing. That went really quickly. Then food came to our rooms last night and food was great. This morning we had breakfast and that was good as well.

On the traveling squad and Sporting’s COVID-19 testing results upon arrival…

The only two guys that were left behind were Felipe Gutierrez and Andreu Fontas, only because they’re still unable to play based on injury. Felipe is out for the year. Andreu is still recovering and it just didn’t make sense because of all of the logistics we have down here, it would have gone a lot better for attention and treatment if he stayed there with our people that we still have (in Kansas City). They’re the only two. Everyone else, the entire delegation came down. We had our testing yesterday and were in quarantine. Then the (results) came much earlier than I would have expected, maybe 8 o’clock this morning, and we were given the all-clear. Everyone was negative.

On his initial thoughts of the hotel facilities…

This morning I did a tour around the facility and saw quite a few people from different teams, and obviously former players here as well. I haven’t heard anything negative at all. Everyone’s being very positive. Everyone has stated that the food’s been great. There’s a coffeeshop downstairs. We checked out all of our meeting rooms and our performance center for working out. Later on tonight, we’ll go out for our first training at the field. I haven’t heard any negatives yet from anyone.

On Sporting’s desire to continue playing matches after a four-month hiatus…

Everybody was looking forward to getting down here, just because it meant we were getting closer to playing games. We also wanted to get down here because the guys have worked so hard, we wanted to do everything we could to eliminate the chance of somebody testing positive. But the guys did a great job in Kansas City being very disciplined. We didn’t want to risk that in any way, shape or form. Tonight I think we’ll see it once we step on the field down here. We’re going to have to take a bus over to the facility and it’ll be more of a real game-like preparation that we go through when we’re on the road. We’ll see a little more of that tonight.

On Sporting’s training schedule for the week...

Tonight will be a hybrid between a regen and a training session. We’ll actually take off tomorrow and then train Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday leading up to Sunday’s match. All of our trainings are in the morning, which is the same schedule at home, so I think our guys will be in the normal rhythm of what we do before games.

A couple of days this week we’ll do weights, as well. Our training here will be the same as we do in Kansas City. We have access to all of those things, but we won’t use them as a team every single day. We’ll run it like a normal work week with four (trainings) leading up. Two of those days will include lifting. For each of these areas, we have two-hour time slots on the field and in the performance center.

On the setup of the hotel and the safety measures in place…

We have two hotels that MLS has taken over for all of the teams. Some teams are in The Dolphin and some teams are in The Swan, but we’re completely separated because we’re on separate wings. We’re on the same floor as Nashville, but we’re on separate wings. Everyone has access to their own elevators. On all of the floors, teams have game rooms, poker, and a lot of guys brought their own stuff to keep themselves in check. I went out this morning and walked around, and there’s a lot of different stuff out there. There’s probably five, six or seven pools. All of the guys have been pretty intelligent in that they’ve brought down with them different things that they can also play—stuff like PlayStations and that sort of thing. I think they’ll be fine. When we go on the road, travel on a Friday, play on a Saturday and leave on a Sunday, in that regard it’s pretty similar because we aren’t going out on the town because we have a game the next day. So it’s usually an in-and-out. We’re just spending a little more time here, and there will be limited interaction with other teams other than when we see them in common areas. It’s not like our guys will go to another team’s hotel room and hang out with them. That’s something that everyone has safeguarded against because it’s an easy way to cross-contaminate from team to team.

On the Kansas City humidity helping Sporting acclimate to the Florida playing conditions…

The humidity in Kansas City was actually pretty good. It helped us a little bit I think. There were some days it was really hot, and obviously some days that it wasn’t. But I think we got a good dose of it to get acclimation. I’ve lived here and played here in Florida during my career, and there’s nothing like training here and playing here. The week leading into our first game will be good for us, just to get used to it because it is different. But as much as it’s different for us, it’s going to be different for the other teams as well.

It’s really good if it stays overcast the whole time. But it’s not good if it’s sunny, then showers, then gets sunny again. Because that’s like a steam bath. I’m hoping that it stays overcast most of the time and we get through the lightning and thunder without an issue.

On the Cauldron’s team send-off that took place Saturday at Compass Minerals National Performance Center…

They did an incredible job. All of us were extremely surprised. I was joking with (assistant coach) Kerry Zavagnin and told him it was just like when we were playing. That was a joke. But this was tremendous. The fans were unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it. They got off (the bus) and the president of the Cauldron spoke to the team. It was pretty neat and I think all the guys really appreciated the fact that the fans back in Kansas City are still with us even though they can’t be at the games.

On the possibility of the team catching cabin fever…

It could become an issue. I know that when we go on preseason, 17 days is usually the time you want to get guys back to where they are from. You can maybe stretch it to 21 days, but once you get beyond that it gets a little crazy. This will be a different scenario because of two things: one is that this is being played World Cup style, so when you go away for an event like that, it’s the same timeframe. The other piece is that we’ll try to do some things with the guys. There are some restaurants and things to do so that we can break up the monotony of being in the same ballroom, eating the same buffet day in and day out. I’m sure we’ll figure out some other things as we go along.

On Sporting’s plan to scout matches during the tournament…

We are able to watch. MLS has reduced the number of people who can scout at a game. It used to be two and now it’s one. The other good thing is all of the games are on TV, so we can watch them in our room. It’s going to come down more to the logistics of how all that works, and we’ll assess that during the first set of games.

On Sporting’s main objectives heading into the tournament…

The primary objective was to get the guys as fit as possible. I think we’ve done that relatively injury free. We’re going into our first game fully fit up until this point. Our focus is going to be the three (group stage) games because they count toward the league (standings). It would be nice to win the tournament, but the first objective is to try to win the first three, because those will count toward the (regular season). All of the guys have been training really well and everyone who has traveled is available. If we had been in a normal season at this time of the year, I’m not sure if I would only have two players out at this point. So we’re actually in a pretty good place starting off this tournament.

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