With his knee plopped onto the seat of a tricycle, Roger Espinoza wheeled through a hallway inside the Sporting Kansas City training facility Thursday. A soft cast enclosed his left foot, supplying protection for an injury that will keep him on the sideline for the foreseeable future.
Espinoza will miss at least 10 weeks with a fractured sesamoid bone in his left foot, an injury he suffered late in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Houston.
The fracture occurred on a tackle from Houston midfielder Nathan Sturgis, who was subsequently ejected for the challenge.
Espinoza departed the match.
“I was shocked. I didn’t think it was going to be that bad,” Espinoza said. “But if you see the replay, the way the tackle was, it was a pretty strong tackle. It makes sense.”
On Wednesday, Espinoza learned he would be suspended for Saturday’s match against Toronto for a studs-up collision with Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric.
On Thursday, he received a separate suspension — a two-game ban from the U.S. Open Cup for "violent conduct" against Houston's Brad Davis in the quarterfinal on July 21.
The least of his worries.
Espinoza said doctors have informed him the injury will require nearly 10 weeks to heal, and rehab could consume a couple more weeks.
In other words, it will likely cost him the remainder of the regular season. Sporting KC plays host to the LA Galaxy on Oct. 25 in the regular season finale — a date that is 111/2 weeks away.
“Obviously (I) want to come back for the playoffs,” Espinoza said. “I know the guys are going to do well and be up there in the standings. You want to come back for the playoffs. That’s the goal.”
Espinoza said he was unable to put pressure on his foot Saturday after Sturgis’ tackle, and he told coach Peter Vermes he wouldn’t be able to return to the match.
He will still serve his one-game MLS suspension Saturday, and he will serve the first of the two-game Open Cup ban Wednesday, when Sporting KC plays host to Real Salt Lake in the tournament’s semifinals.
After spending the previous two seasons with Wigan Athletic in England, Espinoza returned to Sporting KC in January. On Saturday he made his 150th career appearance for the club, which launched his professional career in 2008.
In his first year back in Kansas City, Espinoza has started 20 matches across all competitions, recording one goal and four assists in 17 MLS matches.
He thought he was on the brink of returning to his old form, too.
Espinoza, 28, admitted he struggled to recover from his World Cup appearance with Honduras last summer, a tournament that took a toll on his body and mind. As a result he rejected an invitation to represent Honduras in the CONCACAF Gold Cup last month.
“It’s disappointing to lose a guy like Roger,” Sporting KC captain Matt Besler said. “Roger was really coming into form, playing with a lot of confidence and getting back to the normal Roger Espinoza that we’ve been accustomed to seeing.”
The absence will be a significant one for a Sporting KC midfield that was emerging as one of the best in MLS, with a triangle consisting of Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber and Soni Mustivar.
The club figures to turn to veteran Paulo Nagamura as the immediate replacement, though other options could emerge. Vermes mentioned newly acquired Amobi Okugo as another possibility.
None will offer a like-for-like replacement.
“It’s a shame. As we saw during the game, it was a bad tackle,” Vermes said. “It winds up putting a player out for us anywhere from 10 to 12 weeks. No doubt, it’s a big hit to us.”