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Injury update: The continued challenge for Sporting KC players and coaches

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Nine players injured and probably out, two away playing for the U.S.

Thad Bell

In case you have not noticed, Sporting Kansas City is going through a serious injury problem. When manager Peter Vermes was asked about the health status of his team today, he responded quickly without having to recall the total,” We still have nine players out.”

Wait, nine? The number seems to go up every week. (Not hyperbole!) There is only 28 on the roster so Sporting KC would be missing almost a third of the team.

Players that are consider out for this weekend:

1. Matt Besler

2. Roger Espinoza

3. Gerso Fernandes

4. Eric Hurtado

5. Jaylin Lindsey

6. Jimmy Medranda

7. Rodney Wallace

These players are officially questionable but probably out since they have not practiced this week and Vermes referred to them as out:

1. Andreu Fontas

2. Ilie Sanchez

So that is nine players injured but that is not the whole story either. Sporting KC is also missing two more players, at least one who could start or play significant minutes, as they are with the U.S. U-17 team playing in the CONCACAF Championship and trying to qualify for the U-17 World Cup. With the U17 U.S. team and also unavailable:

1. Gianluca Busio

2. Tyler Freeman

So in reality, SKC is missing 11 of their 28 players.

Still healthy are the three goalies:

1. Eric Dick

2. Tim Melia

3. Adrian Zendejas

That leaves just 14 field players:

1. Botond Barath

2. Yohan Croizet

3. Felipe Gutierrez

4. Nicolas Hasler

5. Krisztian Nemeth

6. Kelyn Rowe

7. Johnny Russell

8. Abdul Rwatubyaye

9. Daniel Salloi

10. Seth Sinovic

11. Graham Smith

12. Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal

13. Gedion Zelalem

14. Graham Zusi

With keepers there are 17 relatively healthy bodies. Unless one of the questionable players sit on the bench, SKC could be two keepers on the bench and still not have a full 18 for a gameday roster.

So how does Vermes prepare for the game on Sunday?

“Same as we prepare for any game, go with the guys that think can go and get the job done, preparing them to play like we would at any other time,” Vermes responded.

Players who would not normally get to play will probably get time in this game and Vermes wants them to realize this is their opportunity to seize more playing time.

“In every season, there are always going to be different situations that players get chances,” Vermes stated. “Sometimes players who are not in the starting eleven sit on the sidelines and they whine and they moan because they are not playing, because they are not getting playing time. Sometimes guys they work hard, they want to play, they fight hard to get their chance because they really deserve it. Sometimes they get it because someone gets injured, sometimes because someone goes away on international duty, sometimes someone has too many yellow cards, there are all different ways.”

“When you get that opportunity, the only thing you have to make sure is that you are ready for that opportunity. As the coaching staff we have a responsibility for that, it’s one of the reasons that we train all the guys to get them ready,” Vermes continued. “So I look at them as positive moments in that it’s an opportunity for those guys to show that they can play. If they play then it should be their objective to show that why they should stay on the field.”

Several players have been on loan to the Swope Park Rangers, Sporting KC’s USL affiliate, most of the season. Graham Smith and Wan Kuzain have been with the Rangers for all of their games but they are needed for the first team.

Not quite an Extreme Hardship... Yet.

MLS and USL rules do allow for teams to “borrow” players from their USL teams in cases of “Extreme Hardship”. Here is the rule.

Clubs may add players to their roster in cases of “Extreme Hardship.” Extreme Hardship exists when an MLS club has:

fewer than four available outfield substitutes (less than 14 outfield players available)

OR has fewer than two goalkeepers available.

So if Sporting Kansas City would find themselves with less than 14 field players available, they could declare an “Extreme Hardship”. Right now they have 14, but if one more is injured they could sign a player to a short-term contract.

Here is that rule:

USL Player Short-Term Agreements in cases of Extreme Hardship: A club may sign players from its USL affiliate (on loan) to Short-Term Agreements (up to four-day contracts) for MLS League Season games only in cases of Extreme Hardship.

A club may sign a player to a maximum of four Short-Term Agreements each season (maximum of 16 days).

The Challenge

Vermes would be out of his mind to want all of these players unavailable but at the same time, he almost seems to relish the challenge. Has he prepared the team well enough, has he built in enough depth, how can he game plan to make the most use of the talent he has?

“It’s challenging in so many ways. You also have to remember that we have some new guys that are having to play without a lot of time in our model of play, understanding responsibilities and that stuff. That is also a challenge as well,” Vermes explained.

SKC’s manager knows this is when he and the coaching staff need to earn their paychecks and it won’t be easy. “I also don’t believe you get hired for the good times. You don’t get hired for when everyone is perfect, and you are winning every game. You get hired and you are in your job because of the difficult times. You’ve got to find ways out of that and how do you keep yourself competitive, how do you keep yourself in it so that when you get those guys back you can still do something. That is the challenge we have at the moment.”

That is the challenge.

Bright side?

It may be hard to see but there is at least a little bit of a bright side. Sporting KC is going through a period where they are only playing a game a week so there is not a lot of congestion. It is bad to be out 4 weeks and miss 4 games but it could have easily been 8 or 9 games at the wrong time.

Captain Matt Besler was scheduled out for 2-4 weeks and it has been over 2 weeks since that announcement. So maybe another week or maybe two and he could be back.

Jimmy Medranda is still out for a while longer but he is doing more every week. He has been practicing on the side and starting to slowly re-integrate with the team. Today he was lined up to participate in drills before media needed to leave.

Neither Ilie nor Fontas seemed to be long term injuries and could be available soon.