KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Part of Sporting Kansas City's long wait is over, in that they now know their Eastern Conference Semifinal opponent.
But by the time Sporting take the pitch for Sunday's first leg at fifth-seeded Houston, who beat the Chicago Fire 2-1 in Wednesday's knockout game, they'll be coming off a 10-day layoff. That's the longest idle stretch for any playoff-bound team – and they're fine with that.
“I'd rather have a layoff than play the Wednesday game,” center back Matt Besler said on Tuesday. “That gives us time to be out on the practice field, to work on a few things, and to stay sharp out here.”
Sporting last played on Oct. 24, closing out their regular season and sewing up first place in the East with a 2-1 home win over Philadelphia. With 19 teams in MLS, they were the odd club out this past weekend when everyone else wrapped up.
“You definitely want to play week by week,” forward Kei Kamara said on Tuesday. “You don't want to take long breaks like this, but when it happens, we're ready to play. We've played games where we were off for a while, with international breaks and all, and we've also played games where it was Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday. No matter what it is, I know the boys are ready.”
To keep his team sharp over the break from competition, manager Peter Vermes has been giving his team a mix of intense training and down time.
“The good thing is that we had a couple of days of rest,” said Vermes, who gave Sporting the day off on Thursday. “With the US Open Cup, we've had a lot of games. “So, given the fact that we've had a couple of days that we could take off and get us hungry again, we can now prepare. That's the more important thing, and I think we can now be in a good rhythm going forward.”
The rest came at a good time, midfielder Graham Zusi said.
“It's going to get our bodies 100 percent,” he said. “It's good for a couple of guys coming off some knocks. I think we're going to be extremely fresh going into that first game, and very sharp as well.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.