Sporting KC

Dom Dwyer’s suspension highlights the need for Sporting KC to develop a reliable backup

Former Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer will return to Kansas City on Saturday as a member of Orlando City SC.
Former Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer will return to Kansas City on Saturday as a member of Orlando City SC.

The tenacity stands out most to his teammates. The attribute, they believe, makes striker Dom Dwyer a perfect fit for Sporting Kansas City.

Atop coach Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3 formation, Dwyer roams as a tone-setter for a club built on applying pressure. For a club that forces its opponents into quick, rash decisions.

On Saturday, when Sporting KC visits Orlando, its tenacious forward won’t see the field. Dwyer is suspended for the match after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season — most in MLS — in last weekend’s loss to Minnesota.

His absence will create evident hurdles.

“The goals is the obvious piece, but beyond that, he is an incredible competitor,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “He’s just relentless over 90-plus minutes. He keeps other players — from the other team and his own team — working and honest. You need that from your center forward.”

It’s especially important with Vermes’ preferred playing style. While the Sporting KC back line is performing well, Sunday’s loss in Minnesota perhaps notwithstanding, Vermes is quick to credit all 11 players for the defensive numbers that include six shutouts in 10 matches. He has long tasked Dwyer with being the fuse to the team’s high-press, and Dwyer has responded in kind.

It’s that fact that keeps him in the lineup game after game, even as he has scored 55 goals over the past four seasons. Dwyer has started all but nine matches since the start of 2015.

“He’s got an incredible engine, a great work ethic, all those things, and that’s very hard to (replicate) when he’s not in the lineup,” Vermes said. “I think we’re constantly working toward getting that with the other guys, but it’s very hard.”

Sporting KC is actually 5-1-3 over the past three years in games Dwyer doesn’t start. It’s won four straight matches when he doesn’t see the field.

But it’s not a statistic Vermes would like to test over the long term. Given its depth chart, Dwyer has emerged as perhaps the player Sporting KC can least afford to lose.

In truth, a backup for Dwyer is a need Sporting Kansas City has tried to fill for awhile. Injuries happen. Suspensions happen. Transfer offers come in.

Diego Rubio showed promise last season, but a knee injury cut his MLS rookie campaign short. The options Saturday figure to include Soony Saad, Latif Blessing, Cameron Porter, Cameron Iwasa or Daniel Salloi. They each bring a different skillset. None can exactly mimic Dwyer, especially not his pressure and especially not over a 90-minute stretch.

“They all can contribute in their own way,” Vermes said. “We’ll look at matchups and go from there.”

They do possess a similar attribute: Youth. Sporting KC doesn’t need to hit on all of them. Maybe even just one will do. Perhaps now more than ever during Dwyer’s tenure, the staff appears confident in its options for the future.

Saturday will offer a glimpse of it.

Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer spoke to reporters on May 10, 2017 ahead of the team's home opener.