The lineup has featured only one change in more than nine weeks, perhaps the truest sign of Sporting Kansas City’s early-season form.
But Peter Vermes’ preference for stability is on the verge of being tested. On Sunday, Sporting KC will play in Minnesota, its third match in eight days. And that forces the head coach to choose between riding a hot lineup or replacing it with fresh legs.
Either way, he won’t be showing his hand.
“It’s going to be about taking inventory with the guys to see where they are and then I’ll make a decision on what the lineup is,” Vermes said after Wednesday’s victory against the New York Red Bulls. “What I’ll tell you ... is the guys that are on our roster, whether it’s the guys that started (Wednesday) or not, we have confidence in those guys.”
The depth was one of several areas of emphasis in the offseason. Sporting KC added to its roster across all three lines — defense, midfield and offense.
It hasn’t been needed on game days. Among the 11 regulars, only midfielder Benny Feilhaber has sat out any matches this year, and his two-game absence was caused by a leg injury. The rest of the group has remained the same.
For a team that surged into first place in the Western Conference after Wednesday’s victory, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“I think we have a fit group of guys,” forward Dom Dwyer said. “So if a team is very fit, it should be OK.
“We have a deep squad, as well, so if guys are needed, which I’m sure they will be in the coming weeks, then everyone will be ready, and we should have a good side every single time.”
A stretch of six games in 22 matches is almost certain to prompt some rest days. But none of the starters sat Wednesday, four days after Sporting KC defeated Real Salt Lake.
A trip to Minnesota this weekend will allow for the exact same amount of rest, but travel could add a wrinkle into the plans.
“There is no doubt it’s a quick turnaround. This time we are playing away from home, so it’s even a little different situation,” Feilhaber said. “But everyone can play on this team, and everybody will, so it’s about being ready.
“But like I said, I know that I, (along) with the other 10 starters from (Wednesday), want to play on Sunday. There is always going to be competition, and everybody wants to play.”
Undoubtedly, a group of reserves is itching for its chance. But while Vermes acknowledged playing some of those backups could improve his bench for later in the season, that won’t be a motivating factor for Sunday’s lineup,
“I really don’t think about the team that way,” Vermes said. “I don’t think (we) have to get guys time or what have you. I think it’s a constant assessment of where the team is and where the players are.”