KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Peter Vermes had hoped to have his full squad available, something Sporting Kansas City's manager hasn't had in a long time, for the club's CONCACAF Champions League opener.
Things are looking up, Vermes said on Thursday, but “we're not there yet.”
Sporting open CCL play on Tuesday in Trinidad & Tobago, against Central FC – but first, they travel to Supporters' Shield leaders and US Open Cup finalists FC Dallas for a Western Conference match-up on Saturday (9 pm ET; MLS LIVE).
Center back Matt Besler (knee) and goalkeeper Tim Melia (back) won't be ready for either game. Winger Justin Mapp is still some time away from returning from his nagging calf strain, and midfielders Roger Espinoza and Soni Mustivar are both suspended for the Dallas match.
The picture is still markedly better than it was a week ago, though, with wingers Graham Zusi and Brad Davis, center back Nuno Coelho and midfielder Paulo Nagamura all projected to be available for selection.
“We need our players,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com. “We need our players on the field. It doesn't matter who the names are. It matters to have guys actually getting on the field and playing and contributing. That's what we need.”
Davis, who has been working his way back from a left calf strain, acknowledged the pressure to get healthy for the regular-season stretch run and CCL group play, but also said players can't rush back too soon.
“You want to be smart,” Davis said. “Peter and I have had some good conversations about how we want to handle this. I definitely don't want a recurrence. We've had a couple of recurrences happen with a couple of guys, and this is an important stretch from now until the end of the year, where we want to have a completely healthy team, as much as we possibly can.
“We're going to really need it this next month.”
Sporting have six matches this month across all competitions, four of them away. But if the club can get healthy, Davis said, they have as good a chance as any other team in the crowded West field to make a run in the postseason while still qualifying for the knockout stage in CCL.
“The league is so crazy that on any given day, you can win with whoever you have,” he said. “But without a doubt, when we have everybody available for selection, we're an extremely competitive team. We have competition at every position, and I think that brings the best out of the group.”