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Eastern Conference Championship

Hobbled Sporting midfield could be down another man

Julio Cesar

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Getty Images

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting Kansas City, already down one key midfielder, could be without another for the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Veteran defensive midfielder Júlio César is doubtful for Wednesday night's match at Livestrong Sporting Park (9 pm ET; MLS Live), manager Peter Vermes said, after sustaining a quadriceps injury late in Sunday's 2-0 loss at Houston.

“It doesn't look good,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com after Monday's training session. “I think that he's not going to be available. They think that he might be, but my process is that he won't be available.”

Paulo Nagamura did not play in Sunday's match because of a sprained right ankle and is still questionable for Wednesday.

READ: Are Houston the Eastern Conference favorites?

“Sometimes you've got to deal with injuries and you've still got to play,” Vermes said. “We'll go with who we have to, and I'm sure they can get the job done. I'm confident in those guys.”

Lawrence Olum has logged time at both defensive mid and center back and has the most big-game experience, out of the pool of possible replacements for Júlio César. Olum started in central defense for Sporting's shootout win over Seattle in the US Open Cup final.

Olum said he'll be ready if called but downplayed the idea of having an edge because of his Cup experience.

“Every match that we've played this season is a big match,” he said in a phone interview on Monday. “It's just about progressing every day. You might look at it as the biggest game, but every game is a big game. I'm ready to play, whenever.”

Then again, Sporting could go with a more attack-minded configuration against a Dynamo side that's likely to pack numbers behind the ball and try to make its two-goal advantage stand up.

READ: No time to be sad for Sporting

“There's [Olum], there's Michael Thomas, there's [Uri] Rosell. Peterson Joseph,” Vermes said, listing midfield possibilities for Wednesday. “There's a lot of guys who it might be. We've got enough guys to put in there. Is it the same? No, but it's the way it goes in the playoffs.”

And no matter who's in front of him, goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said he's confident in Sporting's midfield depth.

“We have plenty of guys who can take over there,” Nielsen said. “It's unfortunate if [Júlio César] is out, but it's time for the next guy to step up. We've had guys do that all season, and they've done a very, very good job. Now it's time for them to do that on Wednesday.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.