KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Matt Besler isn't in anyone's doghouse. He's just not starting right now because Sporting Kansas City are on a five-match unbeaten run in MLS play and manager Peter Vermes is notoriously loath to make changes when his current lineup is doing well.
“I've said the same thing time and time again,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. It was Sporting's last day of training ahead of a two-match, four-day road swing that starts on Wednesday in Chicago (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). “The rhythm of the team is good. I'm not changing the rhythm when the guys are playing well and getting results.”
That doesn't mean Besler – Sporting's captain, a perennial MLS All-Star and a USMNT veteran – will be out of the lineup until Sporting lose, though.
“You also have to take into consideration,” Vermes said, “that if you're playing a bunch of games in a short period of time, you have to rotate the roster around. But again, I'm not taking anything away from the guys who have been playing. They've been playing very well, and they've been getting results, and you have to respect that. That's just the way I do things."
Besler, Sporting's captain since early 2014, has certainly been subjected to that approach before. It happened most notably in 2013, when Vermes held him out of several late-season matches to rest him for Sporting's successful run to the MLS Cup title.
Besler did start and go the full 90 in Sporting's 3-1 loss to Houston in US Open Cup play two weeks ago, his first action with his club since departing for the Copa America Centenario in May. But he's been on the bench behind Lawrence Olum in both of Kansas City's MLS matches since his return.
He came up big in his lone league appearance since the break, though, subbing in for Olum and delivering the late match-winner – his first goal since 2011 – in a 3-2 home victory over Columbus Crew SC on July 3.
Besler's return from international duty does significantly strengthen Sporting's central defense corps, though. So do Nuno Coelho's return from thigh and hamstring soreness and Ike Opara's continued health progression. The latter scored his first goal in more than a year to cap Sunday's 3-1 home defeat of New York City FC, showing he's steadily bouncing back from the ruptured Achilles tendon that ended his 2015 season barely over a month in.
Depth is especially important for a club looking to stay above the red line in a tough Western Conference and hoping to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
“What we need from our team right now – especially as we're moving into the rest of July and August – we need players to be healthy,” Vermes said. “In August, we're going to travel 13,000 miles by plane. We have really short windows and long distances to cover to go and play a lot of those games.
“That's going to be a tough thing, and every one of those guys has got to be prepared to go and play 90, to travel, to recover, to compete again. That's going to be the key to those two months.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.