KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting Kansas City have been on hot streaks before. This is a team, after all, that started the year 7-0-0.
But the Eastern Conference leaders, who are riding a three-match winning string across all competitions, will take something unfamiliar into Saturday’s game at Toronto FC (7:30 pm ET, MLS Live): an unbroken week of training.
Notwithstanding the absences of defender Matt Besler and midfielders Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza on international duty, manager Peter Vermes hasn’t been able to take his squad through a week without a Tuesday or Wednesday match for the first time since early June.
“It’s been fantastic,” Vermes said in Wednesday’s weekly news conference. “We were able to give the guys a couple of days off, and now we’ll have proper training for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, which is really the rhythm that we like to be in. … It’s huge for the long run, especially with what we’ve got the rest of the season.
“We’ve got quite a few weeks like that going forward, so it’s very, very helpful.”
The recent break from a brutal summer heat wave also plays well into Sporting’s preferred high-pressure style.
From late June through July, Kansas City went 0-2-2 – all at home – in league matches where the kickoff temperature was higher than 95 degrees. But through July and early August, they’re 4-1-0 in matches that kicked off at 86 degrees or lower.
Sporting shouldn’t have to hold too much back on Saturday. The forecast in Toronto is a comparatively brisk high of 77 degrees.
“It’s hard to play at the tempo that we do on the days when it’s 100 and above,” Vermes said. “It’s very tough. And our guys did a really good job at times, managing those periods when it was very, very hot. But at this point, it’s getting back more conducive to the way that we play.”
That said, Vermes isn’t lobbying for MLS to take a midsummer hiatus, in the same way that a number of leagues take a month off for a winter break.
“I just look at [summer heat] as part of our season,” he said. “All the teams have to figure out a way to play those games. I liked it the year that they did it during the World Cup, but that’s because it was the World Cup. I understand why they did it then, because teams lost a lot of players. But just as much as we had 29 or 30 days of 100-degree weather, it could be completely different next year.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.