In the moment Jordi Quintilla’s penalty kick rolled across the goal line in Chester, Penn., last September, Sporting Kansas City not only clinched the U.S. Open Cup title, it secured a spot in the 2016 CONCACAF Champions League.
But a year later, that CCL competition has felt less like a reward and more like an inconvenience — the product of an unfavorable schedule mixed with discouraging results in early group-play matches.
Whatever the reason, it’s culminated in this: Four days before attempting to secure a spot in the MLS playoffs, Sporting KC will play host to Central FC in a CCL match Wednesday that holds zero consequence.
Both teams have already been mathematically eliminated from the CCL competition, with Vancouver clinching first place in Group C.
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So, what now?
With a roster that has absorbed its fair share of injuries, Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes has no intentions of playing his starters in Wednesday’s match, which begins at 7 p.m. at Children’s Mercy Park.
After all, on Sunday, Sporting KC plays host to San Jose in the MLS regular-season finale potentially needing a victory to reach the postseason.
Thus, as far as Wednesday goes ...
“There’s no reason to play guys who just played a big game on Sunday and who have another one this weekend,” Vermes said. “It’s a short window. That’s really all there is to it.”
That echoes a similar approach to the team’s first three group-play matches, when Vermes refrained from using several starters. Instead, he called in a handful of Swope Park Rangers to fill in the gaps.
But therein lies another conundrum. Swope Park, the United Soccer League affiliate for Sporting Kansas City, has reached the USL championship match in its inaugural season. The USL Cup final is set for Sunday in Harrison, N.J.
Because it’s evident Vermes plans to rest the Sporting KC starters Wednesday, it’s a virtual necessity that the lineup will include at least some representation from Swope Park.
“I’m being respectful of the fact they’re in a final Sunday,” Vermes said. “I’m going to be smart with whatever guys I use from their group, as well.”
Vermes showed a portion of his hand on Tuesday, when Sporting KC recalled defender Ever Alvarado and Emmanuel Appiah from their loans to the Rangers. And Rangers players Tyler Pasher, Tomas Granitto, Alex Molano and Nansel Selbol were selected to join Sporting KC on short-term call-ups for the match Wednesday.
As for the remainder of the lineup, Vermes replied, “We’ll have 11 guys playing. We’ll have some substitutes.”