In a last-ditch effort to wear some sort of team gear for his session with the media, Sporting Kansas City defender Chance Myers grabbed a light blue jacket from the locker room and casually threw it over his shoulders. In traditional Myers form, he flipped his cap around backward before sitting down at the podium.
His light, easy-going personality seemed a perfect fit for the topic of conversation Thursday.
To comply with the FIFA international match days, Sporting KC and Houston are in the midst of a 14-day break between the first and second legs of their two-game series to decided the Eastern Conference champion.
It allows both teams time to relax — perhaps more time than Sporting KC would like after earning desirable results the past two games.
“Momentum plays a factor in a lot of things,” Myers said. “We’re playing good soccer. But so was Houston. We both have to deal with it. That’s just how it is.”
Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes was a little direct in his answer.
“I think all of us would say we don’t like it,” Vermes said. “You want to keep the momentum going. There’s no doubt we would like to have a week between games — I think that’s an important aspect — but two weeks off is difficult for sure.”
With the extended layoff, Sporting KC has adjusted its training routine. The sessions have focused less on the opponent than they typically would during postseason play and more on finding a way to keep the momentum alive.
“It’s a lot of time to keep everybody connected in every different way — give them enough time off, keep them focused on the job at hand, keep them informed, make sure everybody stays healthy,” Vermes said. “There’s just so many things you have to juggle here and keep on track. That’s the difficulty of it.”
The two-week break, however, isn’t all bad news.
Trying to recover from a displaced fracture in his leg, defender Lawrence Olum hopes to return to the practice field next week with an eye on being available for selection the following Saturday. He has missed the previous two matches.
Olum’s absence has forced Paulo Nagamura to log heavy minutes in his own return from injury. After appearing in a game for the first time since Sept. 7, Nagamura played 96 minutes in the win against New England on Nov. 6. He said afterward his body was predictably tired.
“For him, the break is a really good thing,” Vermes said. “I also think for a few of the other guys, I think it’s important for them to get some time off and get recharged.”
Soony Saad is the lone player to be called for international duty during the break. He has joined the Lebanese national team.
U.S. men’s national team coach Juergen Klinsmann did not call up defender Matt Besler or midfielder Graham Zusi for games at Scotland and Austria.
“Those guys have played a tremendous amount of games already,” Vermes said. “No disrespect to the games they’re playing, but they’re exhibition games. We’re playing our championship here. So from that perspective, I think it was very important those players stay here, get the rest, stay healthy and get ready to play in competition for the club.”