Sporting Kansas City will be forced to continue its swap-meet approach to the starting lineup as injuries, international duty and even a suspension continue to pile up for the Eastern Conference leaders.
The latest casualty is right back Chance Myers, who had played every minute in the MLS competition for Sporting KC before Wednesday’s loss in Houston.
Myers, the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, has been ruled out for tonight’s 7:30 kickoff against the New England Revolution with a groin strain, which means a second consecutive start for Michael Harrington is likely.
But that will be only part of an increasingly patchwork lineup for Sporting KC.
Much of the season, for instance, Sporting KC’s starting midfield was Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and Julio Cesar, but none of those veterans saw a minute against the Dynamo.
Zusi, one of three All-Stars for Sporting KC, missed his second consecutive game with quad injury and Espinoza is away on international duty with the Honduran Olympic team.
Meanwhile, Cesar seems to have been passed in the pecking order by Paulo Nagamura, a veteran from Brazil who was acquired during the offseason in a trade with Chivas USA.
Versus the Dynamo, Nagamura got a starting nod in the midfield along with St. Thomas Aquinas graduate Michael Thomas and Peterson Joseph, who received a red card in first-half stoppage time and is suspended for a game.
That was perhaps the most stark example of Sporting KC’s plug-and-play mentality during the current brutal stretch of 17 games in 56 days.
The longest break Vermes’ squad will have between games from June 16 through Aug. 11 is a four-day breather the club enjoyed between a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire on June 29 and a 3-1 win July 4 in Montreal.
The end result has been creative use of the players at his disposal.
“Sometimes, you look at the roster and, with the injuries and the guys away for international duty, you try to figure out what is best for the team at that point — not only for the result but for rest for the guys,” Vermes said.
There is some good news.
Zusi, who is listed as probable along forward Kei Kamara (bruised knee), is expected to return, and Bobby Convey might be in line for his first start since May 19.
Lawrence Olum, who hasn’t played in three weeks with a groin strain, also will rejoin the game-day roster and Cesar also is available if needed.
“He’s fit and ready to go,” said Vermes, who gave the club’s highest-paid player (Cesar) a clean bill of health. “I’m sure he’ll get some time somewhere. I don’t know when that will be, but he’ll get some time.”
Vermes also said Cesar isn’t in the club’s doghouse, “It’s just a decision of where I see different guys fitting into the way we’re playing right now.”
Of course, Convey probably isn’t ready to play a full 90 minutes yet and Espinoza remains an ocean away.
On top of that, defender Seth Sinovic had to come off late at Houston with a sprained ankle and is questionable, which could leave Sporting KC vulnerable out wide in the attacking third.
Perhaps that will press Neven Markovic, the Yugoslavian defenseman who signed earlier in the month, into making his MLS debut.
These days, it’s impossible to know what Sporting KC’s lineup will look like.
“We train with the same players every day,” said Jacob Peterson, whose stellar performance filling in for Convey helped Sporting KC reclaim the conference lead. “We’re comfortable with everybody, and we’ve got a lot of talent on this team and a lot of good players. Obviously, with the schedule the way it’s been, you have to a little bit of a rotation.”