KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With his club nearing US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League play, Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes has acknowledged the importance of getting minutes for as many players as possible.
But with suspensions, injury and international duty, circumstances just aren't allowing him to do that as he tries to manage an ongoing series of roster shuffles.
“It's part of what we do, and one of the things we've been trying to do over the last couple of years is get deeper in the roster,” Vermes said Friday during the club's weekly news conference. “We've had quite a few guys up to this point now who have gotten a lot of experience, and they've done very well with the opportunities that have been provided to them. So the good thing at the moment is, we have some guys that have fit well into what we're trying to do and are keeping us moving and evolving.”
Center back Matt Besler and winger/midfielder Graham Zusi were called up this week to the U.S. national team and will depart after Sporting's home match against Houston on May 26. Winger Kei Kamara has been called up for World Cup qualifying duty by Sierra Leone, and forward Soony Saad will join the Lebanese national team for a friendly against Oman.
But even before that, Vermes will have to adjust his lineup for Sunday afternoon's away game against D.C. United (5 pm ET, watch on Univision Deportes and MLS Live) because center back Aurelien Collin and defensive midfielder Uri Rosell are both suspended for caution accumulation – and Besler, who has already missed three matches with a tweaked MCL, could sit out against United as well.
“Do we have to make some changes? Absolutely,” Vermes said. “But I think in the long run, all those changes are going to be good for us and the experience is going to be very welcomed as we get closer to the summer.”
Besler, who is listed as day-to-day, said the call-up was not the main factor in setting his timetable for a return to to action with Sporting.
“I've tried not to think about scheduling and what's next,” he said on Friday. “I just try to get it ready to go as quickly as possible. I have to be smart about it, and that may have been one of the reasons why I had to step back and take a while and make sure it gets better, but I'm not looking at that as the main reason.”
While Zusi and Kamara are mainstays with their national sides and Besler is becoming a go-to at center back for the United States, this is the first call-up for Saad – but not Lebanon's first attempt to bring him into camp.
“Back in December, there was a friendly game and we were working pretty hard to get the papers done,” he said on Friday. “It would have been good to have a game in the offseason and have me come in for the preseason fit and ready to go, but that didn't materialize.”
Saad, who was born in Dearborn, Mich., is a former US youth international and has not been to Lebanon since he was 3. His father, Ali, was born there and emigrated to the U.S. to escape the country's civil war.
“I've always kind of grown up as a Lebanese boy, even though I was with the U.S. under-14s and under-15s” Saad said. “This is a good opportunity right now. It's international experience, and I want to take that opportunity.and bring the experience back here and do well for Sporting.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.