Vermes set to juggle SKC lineup for Portland showdown?

Peter Vermes

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After finally getting his first start for Sporting Kansas City, Paulo Nagamura has to wait one more day to find out if he’ll make a second straight appearance in the first XI.

Nagamura went into the 77th minute in Wednesday’s 3-1 road victory over Vancouver, filling in after regular defensive midfielder Julio Cesar had to sit with a right hamstring strain picked up in last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake. The pregame notes listed the Brazilian veteran as out for Saturday’s game at Portland (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), but manager Peter Vermes upgraded Julio Cesar’s status to “questionable” on Friday.

“He has been running since Tuesday and he hasn’t felt any significant reaction to any of the running, but he really hasn’t gone to a sprint yet,” Vermes said in a conference call. “We’ll try to test that at training [Friday], a little bit, and see if he actually has come back. I really think that we’re going to need all bodies for this game, come [Saturday].”

Nagamura had to come out of the Vancouver game with leg cramps, raising questions about whether his nagging calf strain had fully healed, but told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday that he will be ready to go against the Timbers if needed.

“It was my first league start in a few months, so I had to be a little bit cautious,” he said. “But it was just cramps and I’ll be fine. Every player wants to play every game, and I’m no different. I’m hoping to be ready and I hope we can end with a couple of more points.”

Sporting are maxed out on possible points so far, taking a club-best 7-0-0 mark into Saturday’s tilt at JELD-WEN Field. But KC are also playing their third game in eight days, and Vermes acknowledged the toll that takes.

He also said that he hasn’t decided whether to shuffle his usual lineup for the last game before Sporting’s bye week.

“I’ve said all along, after the Salt Lake game at home, that the big key was going to be how we recover – how we rest, travel, play our game and then do the same thing all over again,” he said. “So we’ll have to make that decision sometime tomorrow. Usually the second day after a game is when guys get the kinks out.

“We’ve also got a few guys who are not really banged up, but a few guys who have been sick over the last couple of days,” Vermes added. “We have to just monitor them here, going into tomorrow.”

Vermes, who would not say who had been ill or with what, has not had to change his starting XI in consecutive games yet this season. Now, against a Portland team that has lost four straight and will be desperate for a win, he might not have a choice.

“Since the game against Salt Lake, we’ve expended quite a bit of energy,” he said. “It’s not going to be the easiest of tasks. Portland’s a good team. They might not be on the end of the results that they want, but they’re actually a very good team.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com. Write to him at steve@artkc365.com.