Don’t ask Sporting Kansas City’s players what time zone they’re in, because there’s a good chance they just aren’t sure right now.
The club is in the middle of five games in a fortnight, but arguably the most challenging of those games arrives at 6 Saturday night against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park.
It was Wednesday that Sporting KC, which started the current jam-packed run with a 2-0 win last Saturday against Toronto FC at home, battled the Seattle Sounders FC in the Pacific Northwest — a journey of 1,800 miles.
Now, just three days later, manager Peter Vermes’ club has traveled to the nation’s other coast for a battle with the Union — a trek of nearly 2,800 miles.
When asked whether there was a worse road trip than visiting both Seattle and Philly in short succession, midfielder Graham Zusi grinned and said: “No, I don’t think so. But I think we’ll be OK. It’s two games in four days, which is nothing we haven’t seen before. If we take care of our bodies, I think we’ll be fine.”
With an unbalanced schedule, Sporting KC only faces Western Conference teams once this season, which significantly cuts down such lengthy two-city trips.
That makes this Sporting KC’s most difficult trip of the season, and historically it’s been tough to snag full points on such endeavors.
“Those aren’t easy trips,” Sporting KC forward Jacob Peterson said. “I’m glad that the league changed that where we don’t have as many West Coast swings. But it’s tough, we can’t fool ourselves. We’ve got to take care of our bodies and rest up.”
Sporting KC’s defense already had been tested lately with injuries and absences for international duty.
Largely, it has shined. Peterson is playing well without Kei Kamara, who is with the Sierra Leone national team, and Lawrence Olum has stepped in for Matt Besler, who has been sidelined since an appendectomy June 8.
“The season is very long, and everybody, at some point in time, will have an opportunity,” Vermes said.
“When they do, they’ve got to be ready for it.”
Only right back Chance Myers and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen have played every minute this season for Sporting KC.
Veterans Bobby Convey and Paulo Nagamura have battled nagging calf strains. Defensive midfielder Julio Cesar missed time in May as well.
Reserves Cyprian Hedrick, Korede Aiyegbusi, Luke Sassano and backup goalkeeper Eric Kronberg have missed significant training time.
“We have quite a few games — five in 14 days right now,” Zusi said. “That’s something we’re not used to, so we’ll use everyone. It’s great that we can get guys those minutes to prepare for that.”
During training leading up to this game-loaded stretch, Sporting KC’s healthy players all seemed to understand that at any moment they could be called upon.
“During training I work with the guys and then go off and do some other things for a while, and (assistant coach) Zoran (Savic) came back to me and said, ‘The guys are locked in. You can just see it, the guys are locked in and ready to go,’ ” Vermes said.