All-Star: As travel and weather interfere, MLSers scramble to hit the ground running
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Peter Vermes woke up Monday morning and the Midwestern skies had already opened up, he had a hunch his first day on the job as MLS All-Star head coach would be a wash.
So Vermes hustled what players he had – 10 in all, with 10 more en route to Kansas City later in the day – into a downtown hotel workout room to shake out the fatigue from weekend matches, and to get some semblance of what his team would look like little more than 48 hours ahead of their matchup Wednesday night against AS Roma.
Welcome to the somewhat bizarre blur of All-Star week, when coaches and players try to hit the ground running and make life as normal as possible as soon as they land, whenever they finally find their way to town.
“Hopefully it just comes down to the fact that good players can play with good players, and that’s why these guys are here,” Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis said during a brief media scrum. “It’s not going to be like we’ve all played with one another because we haven’t. It’s going to be an adjustment.”
Davis was one of the few players present Monday who have done this type of thing before – New York’s Thierry Henry, Portland’s Will Johnson and the hometown duo of Graham Zusi and Aurelien Collin are also old hats to the All-Star scramble – because half the team is still in travel limbo. Nine of the players were still making their way from Chicago after the US national team’s win in the Gold Cup final on Sunday – including tournament MVP Landon Donovan, midfield engine Kyle Beckerman and veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando – and Seattle Sounders rookie DeAndre Yedlin was still traveling after playing Sunday night.
All 10 outstanding players were expected to arrive Monday afternoon and meet the rest of the team for a gathering in the evening, followed by full training on Tuesday at Sporting Park.
That is, if the weather holds. Rain showers forced the group inside Monday and more are expected Tuesday before the skies clear for Wednesday night’s game.
“We’ll hit the field (Tuesday) and I’ll give them a look of how we’re going to try and play, and keep it as simple as possible,” Vermes said. “From there, we’re just get everyone on the same page and keep it very simple so there’s not a lot to think about for the group.”
Players in town on Monday included Davis, Henry, Johnson, Zusi, Collin, Mike Magee (Chicago Fire), Raul Fernandez (FC Dallas), Camilo Sanvezzo (Vancouver Whitecaps) and the Montreal Impact duo of Patrice Bernier and Marco Di Vaio.
“It’ll be interesting just to see the chemistry,” Bernier said. “How fast can we gel together to play one game?”
New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill is also in Kansas City to attend the game, but he won’t play. He pulled out of the game following an injury sustained in the Red Bulls’ wild 4-3 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
“I actually expected somebody to get injured,” Vermes said. “And once the guys reached the Gold Cup final, how likely would it be that they would arrive Sunday night? It just wasn’t fair to ask them to do that anyway.”
Cahill’s replacement, Philadelphia Union striker Jack McInerney, was expected to arrive with the rest of the Gold Cup players, including Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo) and Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake). All players who competed for the US team during the tournament were invited to attend the final on Sunday.
“The great thing is that the roster is full of a bunch of really good players, and ina moment like this they’ll at least able to perform well enough,” Vermes said. “Between now and game night, we’ll make sure that everybody is prepared as well as they can be.”