The Full 90

Sporting KC midfielder Ryan Smith to miss rest of season for family reasons

It appears an arduous season has come to an end for Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ryan Smith.

The team announced Tuesday that after being beset by injuries and fitness issues all year long, that the 24-year old Brit is expected to miss the rest of the 2011 season because of undisclosed family reasons.

“The last four weeks, he’s been fighting it a bit,” said Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes. “He talked to me a few days ago about some family issues he’s been dealing with from afar. Some of it is stuff that occurred last year, and there is some new stuff.

“But I understand where he’s coming from,” Vermes said. “Family is first, and we respected that decision.”

Vermes declined to go into further detail about Smith’s family situation, and Smith — who does have a young daughter back in England — couldn’t be reached for comment. However, Vermes did say that while Smith left for home “a few days ago,” this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the talented midfielder’s Sporting KC career.

“It’s not to say he’s gone forever,” Vermes said. “He could (come back). Anything could happen. The door is by no means closed on this situation. He really wanted to be herehe just had to take care of some things, family wise.”

The decision does bring an end to a rocky 2011 for Smith. After recording three goals and seven assists in 26 games last year, his first with the team, he missed the first four games of this season while recovering from offseason knee surgery and recently missed the past three games due to a groin strain that flared up just hours before the home opener on June 9.

“He’s a good player and he brings some different qualities to the game,” Vermes said. “But at the same time, we really didn’t have those this year, just because he was injured and he was trying to get fit.”

Smith’s one highlight this season came in a May 28 showdown against Colorado, in which he scored a crucial game-tying goal in a 1-1 draw that jumpstarted Sporting KC’s recent five-game MLS unbeaten streak.

Rumors swirled last week that Mexican club Atlas was trying to sign Smith, but Vermes shot those rumors down, saying he hasn't talked with Atlas about any Kansas City players.

Cesar ready for increased role

With centerback Aurelien Collin serving a red-card suspension in Sporting KC’s game tonight against Philadelphia, Vermes said veteran Julio Cesar – who lost his starting job earlier this season — will step into the starting lineup again.

“I really think Julio has been watching from the outside, and he’s taken his game to another level,” Vermes said. “I have a lot of confidence in him.”

And why is that?

“He’s fit, and he’s also had a chance to see the physicality of our league from the outside,” Vermes said. “You have to be tough in that position, especially with the forwards in our league. I think he brings a different dimension he wasn’t able to bring before because of fitness and a lack of understanding about what it takes to be successful (here).”

Vermes admitted he wasn’t sure whether Cesar — who has come in as a sub in the last few games and played well — is 90 minutes fit, however.

“It remains to be seen,” Vermes said. “I’m hoping he’ll be able to stick it out.”

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION WHEN/WHERE:

6:30 p.m. at PPL Park

TV/RADIO:

KSMO-TV, Ch. 62

ABOUT SPORTING KC (3-6-4):

Sporting KC won for the first time at Livestrong Sporting Park with a 1-0 win Friday against San Jose. Sporting KC, which is now riding a five-game MLS unbeaten streak, has 13 points and still sits in last place in the Eastern Conference.

ABOUT PHILADELPHIA (6-4-4):

The Union saw its four-game unbeaten streak come to an end Saturday with its 1-0 loss to Vancouver. Philadelphia now has 22 points and sits in second in the Eastern Conference.

BOTTOM LINE:

These two clubs are on th opposite ends of the Eastern Conference standings, but Sporting KC is on a roll. Wins are tough to come by on the road, but a draw certainly seems possible.

PREDICTION:

Sporting KC 1, Philadelphia 1

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