KANSAS CITY, Kan. – In one way, this is familiar territory for Sporting Kansas City. In another, everything is new again.
Sporting open CONCACAF Champions League play on Tuesday at Nicaragua's Real Estelí (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer Plus/Univision Deportes in US, Sportsnet in Canada), the same club they beat in last year's group-stage opener.
That's the familiar part. But there will be plenty of new faces in Sporting's lineup this time around – including 21-year-old keeper Jon Kempin, who is expected to make his second straight start across all competitions.
And they have to do it on only two days' rest, one of those taken up by a long flight to Central America.
“In this situation, normally I would say we have to use everyone on our roster,” manager Peter Vermes told reporters after Saturday night's 4-1 home drubbing of Toronto FC in league action. “We have to make sure we're good from that perspective.
"But we've been doing that every single game this season, so it's really business as usual at this point. What's really going to be the key is the turnaround over the next few days between regeneration tomorrow, traveling on Monday, and then getting focused for the game.”
Last year's victory in Estelí marked Dom Dwyer's first start at center forward for Sporting in any competition – and he responded with a goal to put away Kansas City's 2-0 win. This year, Dwyer has made the spot his own – and he's coming off a two-goal performance against Toronto, breaking a five-match scoring drought for his 15th and 16th tallies of the year in MLS play.
“I think I was trying to force it,” Dwyer said of the slump in Saturday's postmatch news conference. “I was definitely frustrated, and it's tough when you lose games. That's when your frustration comes out. But this week I had a bit of time to refocus and get things together. Hopefully we're back to the start of more good things.”
Estelí pulled off a surprise draw against Costa Rican power Deportivo Saprissa in their group opener, giving Sporting a chance to take the lead in the three-team group with a victory on Tuesday.
“Everywhere we go, we want to get three [points],” Vermes said. “Obviously all competitions have different scenarios you're going to be dealing with. The first key is we're playing away from home, so we have to be smart there. We've got to be careful not to give goals away, and at the same time, we have to try and capitalize on the mistakes they make.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.