KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Craig Rocastle is back early from Gold Cup duty with Grenada, but not by choice.
A scan revealed Rocastle suffered a torn PCL and meniscus in his right knee against Jamaica, leaving Sporting Kansas City to plan around another roster headache among a long list of injuries, suspensions and international call-ups.
The injury occurred in the 43rd minute of Grenada’s opening group stage game against Jamaica when he was on the receiving end of an “awful tackle.” Rocastle said recovery is estimated at two months, and he hoped to get into surgery early this week. More than anything else, it was the timing that left him frustrated.
“I left late to stay with the club as long as possible,” Rocastle said. “I had just got there and sacrificed the stadium opener to play in the Gold Cup. Then to miss them both…it’s part of the game I guess.”
Rocastle had worked himself into the lineup prior to leaving for the Gold Cup, providing a biting presence at holding midfield in three starts leading up to the start of the tournament. Fortunately, the blow will be softened by the fact that Stephane Auvray will likely return this week after captaining Guadeloupe, and both Luke Sassano and Birahim Diop filled in ably against Chicago and Dallas.
Still, it hurts to lose a player who was rounding into form at such an important time.
“Craig going down is not good just because he started coming on,” Vermes said. “His fitness was now here. Now that’s going to be a whole different piece to the puzzle. We’re going to have to be able to deal with that.”
Smith and Bravo nursing injuries
Kansas City is also dealing with more health concerns with Ryan Smith and Omar Bravo. Neither traveled to Dallas this weekend.
Smith suffered a groin strain in the training last week, forcing him to miss the home opener, while Bravo is still feeling the after effects of Brantislav Ristic’s controversial challenge in the final minutes against Chicago. Vermes said he wasn’t sure yet how long Smith was going to unavailable but that he expected Bravo to be available Friday at Livestrong Sporting Park against the San Jose Earthquakes.
In addition to those question marks, Milos Stojcev will not be available this weekend as he serves a suspension resulting from his red card in Dallas. Michael Harrington and Jimmy Nielsen, meanwhile, will return from their respective suspensions.
Tactical tweak pays off
Kansas City’s desire to play a 4-3-3 formation has been well documented, but circumstances forced a tactical shift on Sunday against an in-form Dallas side.
Without the services of Smith or Bravo and preferring to bring Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara off the bench, Vermes played CJ Sapong as a lone striker and put five midfielders behind him to slow down the Hoops’ attack. Luke Sassano and Birahim Diop provided cover in the middle while Stojcev, Graham Zusi and Davy Arnaud put pressure on the ball and started the attack ahead of them.
When Sporting was defending, all five midfielders dropped back into defensive positions, creating a 4-5-1 shape. When they had the ball, Kansas City shifted into a more traditional 4-4-2 with Arnaud playing as a withdrawn or second striker.
“The guys did a good job of recognizing that tactically,” Vermes said. “The big thing was I thought we had a better presence up top at times but also stayed solid defensively as well.”