When Sporting Kansas City trailed by five points in the Supporters' Shield standings with four matches remaining, manager Peter Vermes was still optimistic about their chances of catching league-leading San Jose. Three down with three games left, his team was within striking distance.
But a five-point gap with two to go, he said, is too much ground to make up.
“There has to be a major slip-up on San Jose's part,” Vermes said after Sunday's 1-1 draw at Columbus. “Right now, it doesn't look like there's going to be, especially with the way their schedule looks coming up.”
The Earthquakes host the LA Galaxy on Oct. 21 and end the regular season at Portland on Oct. 27. Sporting's remaining games are at New York on Oct. 20 and at home against Philadelphia on Oct. 24.
Despite the Shield standings, though, Vermes said his East-leading side are still in a good position to achieve their goals.
“For us, the whole end goal was trying to make the playoffs, and then try to get in the position to have homefield advantage for the playoffs,” Vermes said. “Right now, we're keeping ourselves in that position, which is good. We'll keep pushing towards it.”
Five candidates for Espinoza's spot
Jacob Peterson has already filled in at midfield once this season, when Roger Espinoza was with the Honduran Olympic team. But if Espinoza can't return from his right ankle sprain in time for Sporting's last two regular season matches, Peterson is more likely to remain in his usual winger's role.
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“I like what he does up front more,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday.
League assists leader Graham Zusi has moved up from the midfield to the wing in recent matches, and Vermes said Tuesday that he could shift back if Espinoza isn't ready to return for the next game on Oct. 20.
He isn't the only candidate, though.
“[Lawrence] Olum can play there,” Vermes said. “[Uri] Rosell can play in there – Peterson Joseph, Michael Thomas. There are a lot of guys who can play there.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.