The Full 90

Tactical Thinking: Is Vermes making the right calls with the bench?

I had this originally slated for the 11 Questions blog on Sunday. But, I thought it deserved a little longer look than I could give it then. Since I haven’t done a Tactical Thinking piece recently, let’s kill two birds with one stone.

Here's the question: Is Peter Vermes utilizing his bench correctly?

A manager can only do a few things to change the shape of the game while the game is in play. Using his allotted three substitutions is the most obvious (and important) way to do this. Out of gas striker? Bring on a different option. Midfield getting over-run? Bring on a holding midfielder for a forward/winger to re-take control. Trailing by a goal and struggling to break-down a well-organized team? Take out a defender and go for it with an extra striker.

Before the season begun, the prevailing thinking was that KC had built a much deeper bench than last year. At four-games into the season, this is as good of time as any to analyze


he's using.

Game 1: Stephane Auvray for Craig Rocastle (20 min), Chance Myers for Luke Sassano (72) and Graham Zusi for Milos Stojcev (89).

Vermes' hands were a little tied in this game. Rocastle hurt his leg and needed to come off, and Sassano (filling in for the injured Michael Harrington) just wasn't fit to play 90 minutes. That's two subs of necessity. Zusi for Stojcev had two purposes: 1) Waste a little time in the dying moments and 2) bringing fresh legs to chase Chivas in the middle.

I’d say he used it to best of his ability.

Game 2: Teal Bunbury for Craig Rocastle (46), Graham Zusi for Stephane Auvray (69) and Birahim Diop for Scott Lorenz (84)

After going down 1-0 and down to 10-men after the break, the manager made a statement of attacking intent. It was a bold move bringing on Bunbury for a holding midfielder and leaving the team with two strikers, three midfielders and four defenders. While Chicago scored two more goals, KC was still in the game, partially thanks to Bunbury. Zusi came on for an out-of gas Auvray and Diop was inserted specifically to chip in on a set-piece as Sporting chased the game.

This was an example of Vermes using his bench perfectly; and it started with a sub at halftime (which probably followed a pretty intense half-time talk).

Game 3: Stephane Auvray for Davy Arnaud (76), Shavar Thomas for Julio Cesar (82) and Craig Rocastle for Milos Stojcev (89).

Cramping became an issue (for whatever reason: turf, tiredness or weather) and it forced Vermes to sub off the captain (Arnaud) and Cesar (who was stretchered off). Auvray (who often needs to find the flow of the game before he’s effective) and Thomas (in an ideal world, you only bring on a central defender for a card or an injury) weren’t able to help keep Vancouver at bay. Stojcev came off for the second time just around stoppage time.

I think Vermes waited too long in this game. Several players (especially Michael Harrington) seemed gassed and in need of a replacement. By waiting until the 72nd minute and an injury to Arnaud, none of the subs were able to help calm down the game and keep KC on top.

Game 4: Graham Zusi for Davy Arnaud (71), Shavar Thomas for Milos Stojcev (75) and Korede Aiyegbusi for Kei Kamara (87)

After half, I thought for sure Vermes would’ve made one sub: Craig Rocastle for Birahim Diop. The team desperately needed a player to hold up the ball and link play from the midfield to the forwards. I think Diop could’ve been a better option as a substitute considering he was the only “forward” available. When Aiyegbusi (not a forward) came on for Kamara, he could’ve easily replaced Bunbury or Sapong -- all three looked gassed.

What troubles me more is that, after Cesar’s red, Vermes took out an offensive player and put in another defensive player. Sporting was already losing 1-0. There’s no shame in losing 2-0 down to 10 men if you chase the game. It’s still a loss. Why not go with three in the back, pull on a midfielder and try to go after the game like he did in Chicago?



ideal world, the Starting XI would be: Nielsen; Harrington-Besler-Cesar-Espinoza; Auvray-Stojcev-Arnaud; Bravo-Bunbury-Kamara. My subs would be: Kronberg; Collin-Thomas; Diop-Rocastle; Smith-Sapong. That leaves Luke Sassano, Kevin Ellis, Scott Lorenz, Graham Zusi and Korede Aiyegbusi out of the 18.



a pretty deep team. Unfortunately, it has been hampered by injuries and call ups and red cards.

Against Chivas, the team didn’t have Ryan Smith (most creative player), Teal Bunbury (most explosive attacker) and Michael Harrington (best right back). Against Chicago, Kei Kamara and Shavar Thomas were out for national team duty while Julio Cesar and Harrington were injured. The last two games, the team has been without Smith, Bravo and Sassano.

Perhaps now isn’t the best time to level a pass/fail grade on how Vermes uses his substitutes. If he exhibits the same problems shown in the last two games by the end of May, though, it will be time to start thinking a little bit more critically.

Substitute Usage in 2011