Vermes happy to shuffle SKC XI as hectic schedule looms
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When Sporting Kansas City opened the season with a seven-match winning streak, they had the luxury of a settled lineup.
They don’t now — but despite that shuffling, Sporting are back on a hot streak headed into Wednesday night’s match at Seattle (10 pm ET; watch LIVE online). They are unbeaten in their last five — and have won their last four in a row — across all competitions, including a three-match unbeaten run in MLS play.
Through that span, they haven’t started the same XI twice. And with four matches over the next 11 days, there’s a good chance manager Peter Vermes will change things up again against the Sounders.
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 2, TFC 0
“The season is very long, and sooner or later everyone is going to have an opportunity,” Vermes said after Saturday’s 2-0 home win over Toronto. “When they do, they have to be ready for it. It’s our job as a staff to make sure they’re ready, and it’s their job as players to make sure they execute.”
So far over the course of the latest streak, they have.
“We’ve been preaching it since the preseason: We’ve got tons of depth on this team,” defender Seth Sinovic said. “Obviously, certain players make certain plays. But it’s the style we bring and the way we play. When we play the way we can play, we’re tough to beat.”
Vermes made one switch after Sporting’s 1-0 opening win at D.C. United, replacing Teal Bunbury with C.J. Sapong at center forward. The resulting lineup stayed the same through five straight wins before a mild hamstring strain caused defensive midfielder Júlio César to miss a 3-1 win at Vancouver.
But over that span, Vermes was also preaching the virtues of hard work in training and Reserve League matches, now the players who put in that work, are seeing it come to fruition.
“Our coaching staff is extremely good at keeping the guys who aren’t in the 18 sharp,” goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said. “They’re extremely demanding of them. That’s paying off right now. We have a good training culture, a very good training mentality, and the guys who aren’t normally in the lineup are performing when the chance is there.”
One question mark for the Seattle game is whether right winger Kei Kamara, who shares Sporting’s scoring lead with five goals, will be rested after his recent spell of international duty with Sierra Leone.
Kamara is coming off a two-goal performance last Friday, as the Leone Stars advanced in African Cup of Nations qualifying with a 4-2 win over São Tomé and Príncipe, but Vermes said Saturday that he’ll wait and see how the travel affects the right winger.
“It’s good that he will be back but at the same time, he is going to come back from a long trip so we will continue with the way we are going,” Vermes said. “We have four games in the next two-week period. We have to recover and get ready, and then we will assess how everyone looks on Wednesday. “
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.