KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Just as Kei Kamara begins to hit his stride again with Sporting Kansas City, he's on the verge of another trip back across the Atlantic.
The right winger has two goals in Kansas City's last two matches: the equalizer in last weekend's 1-1 league draw with Houston, and the opener as Sporting opened its defense of the US Open Cup title with a 2-0 defeat of the PDL's Des Moines Menace on Tuesday. But after Saturday's home match against the East-leading Montreal Impact (8:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live), he will leave to join Sierra Leone for a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Tunisia and Cape Verde.
“I like the fact that he's getting back into his groove with us, and it's not just scoring goals,” manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “I think he's getting back to how he plays within our team, his position, and all those other things. He's getting there, and it's hard to lose that continuity. But what are you going to do?”
Vermes' concern is bigger than the absence of Kamara, who returned early this month from a loan to Premiership side Norwich City. He's only one of seven Sporting players already on international duty or leaving after Saturday's match – and while the club will then go on a break from league play until June 22, the absences still portend a thin roster for their fourth-round Cup game against USL Pro side Orlando City SC on June 12.
“It's a tough time to lose all of these guys,” Vermes said. “All it does is give you less options in all situations.”
Forward Soony Saad had been expected to return this week from his first stint with the Lebanese national team, making him available for Cup play. But his call-up was extended through June 11 – for World Cup qualifiers against South Korea and Iran – after he scored in his international debut, Wednesday's 1-1 friendly draw against Oman.
Midfielder Peterson Joseph and right back Mechack Jérôme will join Haiti after the Impact match. Along with Saad, winger Graham Zusi (US), center back Matt Besler (US) and midfielder Mikey Lopez (US under-20s) are already on international duty.
“I've got to deal with it,” Vermes said. “I've got seven guys on international duty, plus four guys on loan. That's 11 players, and that's not including anyone who's injured. It's a concern for sure, a real concern.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.