KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The youth movement taking place in Children's Mercy Park may be borne of necessity. But after Sporting Kansas City turned to two promising Homegrown Players in Saturday's 2-2 draw against Toronto FC, it may have some legs.
With SKC shorthanded through injury and also a pair of red cards picked up in midweek, 19-year-old Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal filled in for suspended box-to-box midfielder Roger Espinoza while 18-year-old Jaylin Lindsey stepped in at left back.
“I think everybody did what they had to do,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said after the draw. “They all took responsibility and worked hard. That was a big part of the result.”
Sporting KC have come under the microscope in the past — rightly or wrongly — for minutes afforded to young players in recent seasons. Take Erik Palmer-Brown last season, an obviously talented center back who struggled to find any time behind the stalwart pairing of Matt Besler and Ike Opara, perhaps understandably. But Palmer-Brown has since moved onto the Premier League's Manchester City, who recently loaned him to dutch side NAC Breda.
Saturday was Lindsey’s fourth start in MLS play at left back this season. His only appearances in his natural right back position came in the U.S. Open Cup, and a cameo substitution earlier in the season. The 18-year-old has logged 375 minutes so far this year, and believes they’re quite crucial to his development.
“My personal view is that it’s good for us young guys to get in now, and get used to it,” said Lindsey “I’m 18 now, and when I’m 21 or 22 I’ll be used to this league and I can just get better and better. So it’s just a true honor that Peter is giving us these opportunities.”
Kuzain has already bagged his first goal for the club, and made six appearances, three starts and three sub appearances. He relishes these experiences and feels like he's gaining confidence with every game.
“You get to experience it all,” said Kuzain. “You experience the highs, the lows, defending, attacking losing the ball, winning the ball, you get everything with this experience. Hopefully as games go on you get more comfortable and used to it and it becomes second nature.”