KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Already playing with one hand tied behind their back due to an assortment of injuries and suspensions, Sporting Kansas City absorbed two more critical blows this week.
The club lost midfielder Luke Sassano (pictured above) for 4-6 weeks with a sprained right MCL in his right knee, but, more cripplingly, saw their depth chart at central defender drop to just three players as recent loan signing Daneil Cyrus was ruled out for the season with a broken metatarsal in his left foot.
Fortunately, Sporting don’t play this weekend for the first time in recent memory, giving them some time to process the injuries that brought the total number of roster players out of commission to five.
Still, it’s a difficult pill to swallow for a team that has already battled through a number of challenges this season.
“If you look at the season with the 10-game road stretch, the number of injuries and the number of red cards, there have been a lot of things to overcome,” manager Peter Vermes said. “This is just another one.”
Most concerning for Kansas City at the moment is the absolute dearth of true central defenders who are both healthy and in form.
Barring unforeseen developments, Matt Besler and Julio Cesar will partner in the middle of the back line until Aurelien Collin returns from a spine fracture, with Shavar Thomas providing cover should either player succumb to an injury or merit suspension.
Although he has continued to captain Jamaica on the international level, Thomas has only played 35 total minutes this season and had been exploring options outside the club in the search of playing time. Now, though, Sporting can’t afford to see the Jamaican leave the club with options so limited.
“We’re a little thin,” Besler quipped.
That’s quite possibly the understatement of the season.
“It’s not good.” Vermes said. “It sucks. It really does, especially for [Cyrus]. After those guys, then we are really starting to dig deep. There are a couple guys that I have in mind that I’ve thought about. I would rather that one gets back and we’re flying from there.”
In the meantime, Sporting are left playing the waiting game as Collin, Davy Arnaud and Craig Rocastle slowly recover and regain fitness in order to start contributing on the field after long layoffs.
Vermes said Collin is feeling much better a little more than two weeks after suffering the injury against Toronto and will have an X-ray on Saturday to determine how much his back has healed and help the training staff shape his rehabilitation moving forward.
Rocastle is now participating fully in training for the most part while Arnaud began easing his way into team activities this week. Vermes said both could see limited time by the end of August, but he didn’t expect them to truly become available to play extended minutes until September at the earliest.
“As I said to both guys, we’ve worked so much to get them to this point and where they are now,” he said. “We are not going to now try to steal time and risk aggravating the same thing or having something else go wrong. It’s going to have to be patience on their part and me being stubborn because they want to be in the team.”
And even though these aren’t ideal circumstances for a team trying to solidify its playoff spot and climb the Eastern Conference table, Kansas City aren’t overly concerned. As they’ve already shown this season, Sporting are determined to not let setbacks define them.
“Every MLS team has things like this happen,” Besler said, “but that’s why the best teams emerge. It’s about who can handle all that stuff.”