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Sporting KC faces mental, physical challenge to prep for Austin FC

MLS Whitecaps Sporting KC Soccer
Posted at 12:39 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 13:39:33-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sporting Kansas City is in the midst of another busy stretch, so managing minutes could get tricky this weekend for Manager and Technical Director Peter Vermes.

His club dropped a 2-0 result last Saturday against Los Angeles FC then traveled to California midweek for a semifinal clash at the Sacramento Republic FC, which Sporting KC lost 5-4 on penalty kicks after 30 minutes of extra time.

Five key contributors have already logged more than 200 minutes in the last week, which could leave Sporting KC shorthanded at worst or exhausted at best Saturday against Austin FC at Children’s Mercy Park.

“Is everybody available? No,” Vermes said. “Guys are injured obviously, so the guys that are, the guys that have played minutes, it’s all about whether or not they feel up to it physically. That’s really the biggest thing. It’s something you have to monitor, you have to talk to the guys and then you also have to make decisions. Sometimes even though maybe they tell you they’re good enough, maybe you say you’re not going to play or what have you.”

Four Sporting KC players — centerbacks Andreu Fontàs and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, midfielder Remi Walter and forward Johnny Russell — played all 210 minutes in the losses against LAFC and Sacramento, but with injuries and suspensions it may not be possible to give everyone a break.

Forward Daniel Sallói played 84 minutes against LAFC and went the distance in the Open Cup semifinals, including the 30 minutes of extra time, so he’s logged 204 minutes this week.

Three other players — right back Graham Zusi (165), forward Khiry Shelton (145) and midfielder Erik Thommy (144) — have topped 140 minutes in losses to LAFC and Sacramento, but Vermes indicated that several players are going to have to gut through Sporting KC’s return to league play with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Austin FC, one of the top teams in the MLS this season.

“You can play three games in a week,” Vermes said. “Obviously, we went a little farther with that last game, but you can do it. Teams do it all the time and players do it all over the world.”

Perhaps as challenging, Sporting KC (5-13-5) has to recover psychologically.

The club currently sits last in the MLS Western Conference and probably will miss the playoffs for the second time in four seasons.

The loss at Sacramento, a USL Championship side in the second tier of U.S. soccer, ended Sporting KC’s best hope for salvaging a championship from the season.

“Yes, of course, they’re upset with it or whatever,” Vermes said of the loss at Sacramento. “I think they know they did more than enough during regulation to win it. We had way too many high-quality chances not to have one (goal), but we didn’t. Of course, they’re upset and all those things."

"Is three days enough? For me, I think you have to get right back out there and you play. This is what you do. I don’t know any other way to do it. You can’t sit around and feel sorry for yourself. You’ve got to get on with the next game, and you’re only as good as your next game as well.”

Austin FC at Sporting KC will air on 38 The Spot, a sister station of KSHB 41 and the broadcast home of the club.