KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting Kansas City gave their starters a regeneration day on Monday, but those players who weren't in Sunday's Starting XI went through some lively play on the training pitch.
They'll need to be ready for action, given the club's situation going into Wednesday's second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals (9 pm ET; watch LIVE online).
Sporting trail Houston 2-0 in the home-and-home series. Unless they can outscore the defense-minded Dynamo by three goals (after managing three goals in a league match just three times this season), Kansas City's best-case scenario has them winning by two in regulation and forcing extra periods on Wednesday.
That's a lot of football, even if things don't go to penalties.
“I think we realize that the game's going to be at least 90 minutes, and we have that to work with first,” manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “There's no doubt that we'll use more than 11 guys. Who that winds up being, I don't know, but to make sure they're prepared and ready to go, physically and mentally, is really the job at hand right now.”
Veteran winger Bobby Convey, who has struggled with injuries this season but has come back to appear in two of Sporting's three most recent games, said anyone in the 18 on Wednesday will have to be prepared to play a significant role in a must-win match.
“When the time comes, you've got to step in,” said Convey, who has 14 starts this year. “This is what professional soccer is all about, these situations.”
While Vermes could have to plug two holes in the midfield, with Júlio César doubtful and Paulo Nagamura questionable with injuries, he doesn't plan to make wholesale changes to the lineup on Wednesday.
“We're not going to stray a ton from who we are,” Vermes said. “They're the same guys who've been pretty darn successful all season long.”
Fullback Michael Harrington, who has nine starts this season and 128 regular-season starts in six years in Kansas City, had the same take.
“The guys on the field in Houston have done well all season,” he said. “Obviously, we feel confident with those players. Just because we lost one game doesn't mean we're going to change who we are, hit a panic button and change things. It's obvious, with the consistency they've shown out there, that they can get the result we need.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.