KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After slogging through a packed summer schedule and emerging right where they wanted, Sporting Kansas City caught another break this weekend – both literally and figuratively.
While Philadelphia scrape and claw for sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference on Saturday in Seattle, Sporting find themselves with the weekend off and plenty of time to rest and take stock of their position with two games remaining.
“We pretty much get to sit back this weekend and see how the other results pan out,” defender Matt Besler said. “It will be a little different not having any control on where you move. You pretty much just have to watch and if [Philadelphia] jump us, we can’t do anything about it until New York.”
Sporting currently find themselves perched precariously at the top of the East with just a point separating them from the Union – who will no longer have a game in hand after this weekend – and Columbus, while four other teams (New York, Houston, D.C. and Chicago) are within at least eight points.
And although Philadelphia could certainly stake their claim to the conference crown with a victory or draw in Seattle, Kansas City know their situation won’t change too much between now and Oct. 15 when New York come to Livestrong Sporting Park for what Sporting hope won’t be their final home game this season.
No matter how things shake out, manager Peter Vermes said he wasn’t preoccupied with his team’s positioning or the looming possibility of a conference championship. At the end of the day, he said he just wants to be a part of the postseason field.
“We’re not in a position to try to predict where everyone else is going to fall out,” Vermes said. “Our idea is that we want to make the playoffs. If that means winning the conference, that’s great. We want to do that. If that means coming in second or coming in third, [that’s fine, too].”
For now, Sporting are in the driver seat, and that won’t change too much this weekend no matter what Philadelphia do.
Even if Peter Nowak’s team braves the raucous atmosphere at CenturyLink Field and sneaks out of Seattle with a result, Kansas City will still be in prime position to push the Union for the top spot the East or, at the very least, advance straight into the conference semifinals.
“We’re at the top right now,” Besler said. “We control our own destiny. At the end of the season, that’s all you can really ask for.”
Espinoza to play it by ear with Honduras
Roger Espinoza may have missed Sporting’s last two matches against Philadelphia and San Jose with a quadriceps strain, but that didn’t stop the midfielder from joining Honduras for their friendlies against the United States and Jamaica on Saturday and Oct. 11.
Espinoza has 21 caps for Honduras since making his debut in 2009, and Vermes said he expected that number to grow only if the 24-year-old was fully recovered from the strain that caused Kansas City to hold him out as a precaution.
“[The call-up] was more for them to check him out as well on their side, which I don’t have a problem with,” Vermes said. “My only request was that he needs to be smart. He can’t get sucked into playing if he’s not fit yet. He was already on the mend here, but he might be able to recover. I don’t know. It’s going to be up to him.”