Sporting KC get vital rest ahead of final playoff push

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time in three months, Sporting Kansas City have a weekend off. And it couldn’t have come at better time.

Sporting have played 21 games in all competitions since their last extended breather in early May, a stretch that averages out to a match every four days. And although they’ve resurrected their season in the process, the hectic schedule has certainly taken its toll.

“Physically, it’s obviously nice to get a break,” defender Matt Besler said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is the mental side of it. It’s just great to mentally step back and take a deep breath.”

And although they won’t have to worry about results on the field this weekend, apart from following their playoff competition in the Eastern Conference of course, Kansas City will still surely have plenty on their minds.

The team’s 14-game unbeaten streak in the league ended last Saturday in heart-wrenching fashion against the Seattle Sounders, and manager Peter Vermes is currently coming to terms with an injury epidemic that has sapped depth in the midfield and defense, especially at center back.

Still, Vermes and his charges haven’t shown any signs of panic. After all, they’ve been through worse this season (see the 10-game road trip to start the campaign) and eight of their final 11 games will come at home, setting the stage for a run at the playoffs and maybe even the conference title.

“I think the character of the team is really good,” Vermes said. “There has been a growth in our mentality in the right way [over the course of the season]. It comes from going through things like this and continuing to drive to where you want to go. You hope that it will pay dividends down the road.”

Right now those dividends are coming in the form of rested legs. Vermes gave many of his starters extra days off this week, and the team finally had time to hit the training field with a purpose after spending the last few month focused on regenerating following matches.

Now, they just have to shake off the Seattle result and focus on the crucial months ahead. As even Sporting players will admit, the schedule is set up ideally for a late run. Kansas City just have to take advantage of their layoff to, hopefully, head into the playoffs at full strength and running on all cylinders.

“I think it's perfect timing,” Besler said. “It’s a great set up for us. We’ve clawed our way back. We’re in a great position to make the playoffs. I think during this little mini-break, we’re taking a step back and coming together as a team.”

Auvray traded to Red Bulls for draft pick

Kansas City may be quiet on the field this weekend, but the club was still active on a busy day of roster changes in MLS on Friday.

Sporting traded midfielder Stéphane Auvray, who hasn’t been with the team since the end of June, to the New York Red Bulls for a second-round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.

Auvray was signed prior to the 2010 season from French second-division side Nîmes Olympique and made 27 appearances for the club. He captained Guadeloupe at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup but hasn't played for Kansas City since a substitute appearance against Philadelphia on June 22.