Sporting rested, ready for first match in nearly two weeks
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Most of Sporting Kansas City's players have spent the last two weeks alternately resting up and training for Friday night's key home match against Houston (8:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Not everyone had the international break off, though, with four Sporting players – including three key starters – seeing duty for their national squads.
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Midfielders Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza each played in a World Cup Qualifier on Tuesday, with Zusi starting the United States' 1-0 victory over Jamaica and Espinoza assisting on Jerry Bengtson's game-winner as Honduras beat Cuba 1-0.
Winger Kei Kamara went the full 90 over the weekend in Sierra Leone's 2-2 draw with Tunisia in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, and backup midfielder Peterson Joseph made three starts as Haiti went 3-0 in Caribbean Cup qualification.
While releasing players for international duty has its dangers, manager Peter Vermes said he's glad to see so many of his charges get the opportunity.
“This started a long time ago when we started on this journey of trying to be a club that is relevant, not only in MLS but hopefully in the international tournament that we're going to be in next year,” said Vermes, whose team has already qualified for the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League by winning the US Open Cup.
“You can be a mediocre to bad team and have one guy get some rewards. If you're a good team to a great team, everybody gets recognized. Opportunities start becoming abundant. Salaries increase.
“All those things happen, and I think that's starting to become pretty prevalent for them, right in front of them, as we speak.”
But as D.C. United star Dwayne De Rosario's season-ending knee injury – sustained on Tuesday in action with Canada – showed this week, managers can be justified in their worries.
“One part of it depends on how much work those guys are getting,” Vermes said. “You don't want too much. A lot of our guys got a good rest for the final push at the end of the season. Those other guys have had to go and travel and play, which can hurt a little from that point of view. But the positive is that they keep in rhythm because they're playing. It's a mixed bag. In the end, those guys have to get back here and recover and fit back in as soon as possible.”
The travel time required for Kamara to join the Leone Stars in Africa can be a concern, but Vermes said that wasn't the case during the current break.
“He got back a couple of days earlier than the rest of the guys and got a couple of days under his belt,” Vermes said. “Yesterday, I was going to give him a regeneration day and he said, 'I want to train, because I haven't played for the last couple of days.' His work ethic yesterday in training was fantastic. I don't think twice about him right now.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.