KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Going into a stretch of five matches in 15 days to open the 2014 season, Peter Vermes talked up his team's depth and said he would make liberal use of it.
Two matches into the year, Sporting Kansas City's manager has already made good on that promise.
“We've been talking about that going in,” center back and captain Matt Besler told reporters on Wednesday, after Sporting's 1-0 win over Mexican side Cruz Azul in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. “We weren't just saying that. Peter's shown that over the past couple of seasons. When he says he's going to play guys and show the team's depth, he does it. Everyone has confidence in all the players.”
And with the rest of that grueling run still to go, including Wednesday's return leg in Mexico City, there's a good chance that Vermes – who has already used 16 different starters in Sporting's first two matches – will add to that number before it's over.
“We're getting into another game here this weekend, so we're going to have to continue to keep using players,” said Vermes, whose club hosts FC Dallas in league action on Saturday (8:30 pm ET; MLS Live). “A lot of guys are going to get opportunities, and they're going to have to gain some experience really quickly. We're going to need the entire roster going into this season, because of the number of games we're going to play.”
“We're not seeing a dip in the work ethic of the group, depending on who's playing,” he said after Thursday's training session. “The guys are all the same. The guys are working hard. They're maintaining a good mentality to execute the game plan, and they're all fighting for each other. And that breeds a good camaraderie within the group.”
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The expectation is that anyone who gets a starting nod will live up to it, center back Ike Opara said after the Cruz Azul match.
“That speaks a lot to the organization, Peter and the guys on this team,” Opara said. “Some guys look at it – or maybe outsiders look at it – as 'backups' or 'not the usual XI,' but we have a lot of talented guys on this team, and we don't look at it that way. We look at it as 'the next guy up,' and it's their job to do the job. I think it's showed these first couple of games, and I think it showed last year as well.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.