Sporting KC

Sporting KC plays mix and match with its roster during busy slate

Sporting Kansas City beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park, and the teams will play again Tuesday. on Saturday, Sporting KC’s Jacob Peterson (from right) got to a header before Vancouver’s Blas Perez and Kendall Waston.
Sporting Kansas City beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park, and the teams will play again Tuesday. on Saturday, Sporting KC’s Jacob Peterson (from right) got to a header before Vancouver’s Blas Perez and Kendall Waston. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

The white boards in the Sporting Kansas City coaching offices display an ever-changing roster, with defenders, midfielders and forwards cataloged into separate columns.

On a morning last week, a file on the left rail was reserved for players who were deemed unavailable for an upcoming match — those who were injured or simply in need of a break.

As Sporting KC returns to CONCACAF Champions League group play Tuesday, the list on the left rail is growing.

The club will be without a large chunk of its roster as it flies to Vancouver — a team it played Saturday — for the second match in CCL group play.

“It’s obvious that a lot of guys who played (Saturday) won’t play on Tuesday, just because of the short turnaround, the travel and everything else,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “So what we’ll have to do there is go with another game plan.”

For the second time in the CCL competition — which Sporting KC opened last week with a draw against Central FC in Trinidad and Tobago — Vermes will utilize the Swope Park Rangers roster to enhance his plan. One position in particular will require aid.

Center backs Matt Besler and Kevin Ellis started and played 90 minutes in Saturday’s 2-0 victory against Vancouver at Children’s Mercy Park. Nuno Coelho, another center back, started at defensive midfielder before suffering a minor hamstring injury that will hold him out of Tuesday’s match.

Two more central defenders — Ike Opara and Lawrence Olum — are dealing with injuries. As a result, Swope Park Rangers defender Amer Didic, who made his first career start with Sporting KC in the Central FC match, could be in line for playing time Tuesday.

During the CCL competition, Vermes has essentially split his roster into two separate groups as the team plays five matches in 15 days.

In this case, the opponent further complicates — or at least alters — the plan. Only three days after Sporting KC defeated Vancouver, the teams meet on Canada’s West Coast in an entirely different competition. The chess match between coaches takes on new life in a rematch with a quick turnaround.

Vancouver entered Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday in desperate need of a victory to bolster its playoff hopes, but instead Sporting KC found more comfortable footing in the postseason race.

The match Tuesday reverses the roles. Sporting KC earned a draw against Central FC in the opening round of CCL group play last week, but Vancouver already defeated Central FC and leads the three-team group. Each team plays four matches in group play, with the winner advancing to the knockout stage in 2017.

“I’m not exactly sure what team we’re going to send out there — if it’s going to be something similar to Trinidad or if it’s more the guys that played tonight — (but) either way, we’ve got a good group of guys, and we want to make sure that we continue to advance in that competition,” Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber said after Saturday’s match. “We need at least a draw. If we lose to Vancouver on the road, it’s pretty much over. We need at least a draw, and we’ll have that mentality.”

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