KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The New York Red Bulls will go into this weekend with their top players somewhat rested. Sporting Kansas City will go in as the Western Conference leaders, tied on points with Supporters' Shield leaders Orlando City SC.
And while conventional wisdom might say otherwise – after all, everyone needs a day off now and then – Sporting manager Peter Vermes won’t rule out rolling out his usual XI when Sporting KC visit expansion side Minnesota United FC on Sunday (1:30 pm ET; FS1, FOX Deportes in US | MLS LIVE in Canada).
“I really don't think about the team that way,” said Vermes, who has started only 12 different players this season and has used the same lineup in seven of Sporting’s nine matches. “I don't think 'I have to get guys time' or what have you. I think it's a constant assessment of where the team is and where the players are. The great thing is that we played Saturday and we played Wednesday, and we had a good rest in between, and now we're doing it again.”
Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch, whose team play on Saturday at winless Philadelphia (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE), took a different tack. He went reserve-heavy on Wednesday, including holding striker Bradley Wright-Phillips and playmaker Sacha Kljestan out of the XI (though both came on in the second half, Kljestan in the 57th minute and BWP in the 65th, with forward Daniel Royer coming on as the final sub in the 69th).
“I'm getting a little bit older, hate to admit it, but a few of us older guys got a rest tonight so we're fresh for a big rivalry game against Philly on Saturday,” Kljestan said. “Some of the young guys stepped up and did really well tonight; unfortunately, we weren't able to get a good result."
The sequence of the midweek-weekend games played into Marsch’s reasoning as much as giving older players some rest.
“We knew going into the game that it was going to be about physically being up for the challenge,” Marsch told reporters. “Obviously we had to play a makeshift lineup to get through this week the right way and go down to Philly and get what we think are going to be some important intraconference points.
“We know that is always a challenge because Philly as much as they’re having a tough year, they always play well against us. They're always prepared and they're desperate, so it's not going to be easy, so we'll have to figure out which guys from here can regenerate and we'll have some fresher legs ready to go for that one."
Sporting will have one more day of rest than the Red Bulls will, though, facing the Loons on Sunday afternoon.
“From a schedule perspective, that helps us big time,” he said. “But it's really going to be about taking inventory over the next couple of games with the guys to see where they are, and then make a decision on what the lineup is.”
Vermes does have plenty of MLS-tested players on his roster – especially in the back line and defensive midfield – and while he has always prized lineup consistency, he also insisted that he trusts his team’s depth and will make use of it at the right times.
“The guys that are on our roster, whether it's the guys that started tonight or not, we have confidence in those guys,” he said. “And until they're not on our roster, we're going to keep working and making sure they're prepared when they get their chance. And if it's this week or next week or whenever, when those guys enter, they're going to be ready.”
At the same time, midfielder Benny Feilhaber said, nobody’s conceding a starting spot just because he team’s schedule happens to be crowded at the moment.
“There is no doubt it's a quick turnaround,” Feilhaber said. “This time we are playing away from home, so it's even a little different situation, but everyone can play on this team and everybody will so it's about being ready.
“I know I am and I'm sure the other 10 starters from today want to play on Sunday. There is always going to be competition and everybody wants to play.”