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Peter Vermes: Sporting Kansas City players want to "start playing games"

Sporting Kansas City were one of the first MLS clubs to resume voluntary individual workouts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now head coach/sporting director Peter Vermes senses his players want more.

Small-group and full-team training sessions would be the next progressions, with a full-team moratorium currently set to run through June 1 and matches suspended until at least June 8.

“It’s good to be on the field every day, but I think all of our guys are ready to take the next step,” Vermes said. “You want to start competing, and more importantly [the players] want to start playing games. That’s probably the big thing.”

That desire is natural, though the simple action of training outdoors has helped to provide a fitness baseline. Khiry Shelton, back with SKC after a season with Paderborn in Germany, said that he’s in the best shape of his playing career.

Still, there’s a significant difference between being that training and being match fit.

“The difficulty always is when you’re by yourself, and a lot of times you’re doing things like riding a bike or doing things like that, it’s not the same as playing soccer,” Vermes said. “There’s so much cutting and moving and trying to run with someone. What I think this has helped with is get the players away from that initial soreness when guys come back to preseason. Usually that first week, first 10 days, these guys have soreness all over their body.”

Asked about a possible 2020 MLS season return, veteran midfielder Roger Espinoza said it’s “hard to tell” how many game-like situations are needed before meaningful competition. Vermes echoed that.

“For me it’s always, ‘Give me a date of a game, and then let me work backwards from there,’” Vermes said. “That’s when I can tell you what I can put together. But it’s really going to come down when we have a date for when our first game is.”