After four long months, Sporting Kansas City head into its last week of preseason training surrounded by an unprecedented buzz of fan expectations and media attention.
And already, manager Peter Vermes has spotted the danger. He’s happy to see that level of excitement – but also doesn’t want his players to get caught up in it.
“I always think that high expectations are good,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Monday. “To have that sort of expectation of what this team is capable of doing is good. But I am really a big believer of keeping things in perspective. It’s a long season, for us and for the other teams in our league as well.”
Sporting, who open Saturday at D.C. United (7:30 pm ET, MLSLive), proved last year how much things can change over the course of a season. They lost six of their first eight games before going on a club-record 14-game unbeaten streak, winning the Eastern Conference regular-season title and reaching the Eastern Conference Championship in the postseason.
“After 10 games, everybody thought we were dead in the water,” Vermes said, “and that wasn’t the case.”
In addition to keeping his charges level, Vermes has other issues to address in the final week of training.
While his team is trying to get the finer points of the game plan mastered, three of his midfielders – starters Graham Zusi and Júlio César and key backup Paulo Nagamura – are nursing nagging injuries.
“It’s nothing major,” Vermes said. “They’ve just all got something little can kind of affect them going into the first game of the season. I really don’t know if it will keep any of them out, but I’m bred to always deal with the worst-case scenario when I’m preparing, and that’s what we’ll try to do over this next week.”
Whatever roster-shuffling Vermes might have to do heading into the opener, don’t expect to see any new arrivals in the run-up week – although some trialists could find themselves added to the club.
Midfielder Mozzi Gyorio has earned praise from Vermes for his play off the bench in exhibition games, and a back injury to No. 2 ’keeper Eric Kronberg might land trialist Steve Spangler an offer to be the No. 3 until Kronberg comes off the injured list.
“It’s basically the same guys we’ve had with us,” Vermes said. “We’ll probably make decisions on a couple of guys, with contracts. It’s been difficult, with a few of those guys being injured, but we are starting to feel more comfortable with a few guys. They’re not going to be major impact guys off the bat, but in the future and on the reserve team.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.