It's been a while since Sporting Kansas City had a No. 1 SuperDraft pick miss this much early training time for international duty. Then again, Sporting knew what they were getting into when they took midfielder Mikey Lopez with the 14th overall pick in January.
The former North Carolina star was late joining his new club because of duties with the US Under-20 team, and was called up again on Thursday for the CONCACAF regional championship tournament that runs from Feb. 18 to March 2 in Puebla, Mexico.
“He's been with the 20s for a while now,” manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. “I didn't think that would change all of a sudden, and not have him involved and not work with them.”
Right back Chance Myers was a US youth international when he was the then-Wizards' first-round pick in 2008, but his absences were not as extensive as Lopez's are projected to be.
Should the US make a deep run in the CONCACAF tournament as expected, Lopez would be tied up there through the remainder of Sporting's preseason. That's typically a time for new arrivals to focus on learning the club's system, and Lopez – who did get some preseason work in while the club was in Arizona -- will have to make the rest of it up at some point.
“The good thing is that the time he did spend with us gave him a good picture of what some of the expectations are,” Vermes said, “both at a general level and for where he plays on the field.”
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But while Lopez's time with the Under-20s might extend the time he needs to work into Sporting's plans, Vermes is glad to see him get a chance to compete against the region's top young players.
“All of this experience is valuable,” he said. “You just get more knowledgeable about the game. So I think everything that he's doing is going to help him. I don't look at it as a negative. It's a great experience for him.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.