In the minutes, hours and days after Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber found himself on the dangerous end of a tackle from an LA Galaxy defender, the events offered little, if any, optimism.
Feilhaber called for a substitute almost immediately after the challenge from Nathan Smith on Saturday left him wincing on the ground, and he spent the remainder of Sporting KC’s 2-1 victory on the bench with ice over his ankle. After the match, a trainer carried Feilhaber off the field on his back. A day later, Feilhaber posted a picture to his Twitter account, and he was sitting in a wheelchair in the airport (though there a tongue-in-cheek trace to that).
Given all of that, Sporting KC is taking Feilhaber’s official prognosis as good news. He has been diagnosed with an ankle sprain that will sideline him indefinitely, but tests late Monday revealed no broken bones.
“The good news is it all came out negative,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “The bad news is it still was a reckless tackle that impacted the player. It’s going to impact his play for some considerable time.”
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But it might not keep him off the field as long as initially expected. Although Feilhaber won’t make the trip to Houston for Sporting Kansas City’s fifth-round match in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, Vermes wouldn’t yet rule him out for Saturday’s home game against Portland.
On Tuesday, Feilhaber was walking without a discernible limp to his step, and he even swiped an assistant coach’s whistle and directed the fitness warmup drills.
While Sporting KC has typically played it cautious with injuries, the club’s absences could force its hand. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer are with the United States men’s national team for up to a month.
“It’s just getting on the mend of the ankle sprain,” Vermes said. “I can’t tell you a timeline. He’s working hard, and the guys in the training room are putting him through it. Having lost three guys already to the national team and now losing him and (a fourth starter), that makes an impact to the team. Hopefully it’s something that’s going to be quicker (rather) than longer.”
Without Feilhaber and the three national-team players for Wednesday’s trip to Houston, Sporting KC tapped into the Swope Park Rangers roster, adding forward Kharlton Belmar, midfielder Felipe Hernandez and defender Parker Maher on short-term loans.
The replacement for Zusi seems rather obvious with Saad Abdul-Salaam, the 2016 starter at right back, but the options for Besler, Feilhaber and Dwyer include a mix of possibilities. Besler’s unavailability will give a new center back partner for Ike Opara, either Kevin Ellis or Erik Palmer-Brown, who was a full participant in practice Tuesday after a nagging thigh injury.
“It can be challenging, but over the course of the offseason, Peter was trying to build depth and strength in numbers,” Opara said. “(The match in Houston) is another opportunity for guys to show what they have. The guys have been hungry to play all season. They’re going to get opportunities moving forward.”