KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As Sporting Kansas City took the pitch for their fourth game in 11 days, a heavily rotated lineup kicked off in the Leagues Cup against Mexican superpower Club León Tuesday night.
The result was a 6-1 lopsided victory for the visiting team who at full strength and last played on Thursday.
Seven homegrown players made the starting lineup for SKC, six of them 21 years old or younger.
Midfielder Ozzie Cisneros debuted for the home side as a starter and Kayden Pierre, 18, came on in the first half after Lindsey went down with an injury.
“At the end of the day, that’s a decision I had to make and if anybody wants to make a criticism to the team, they can make it at me,” head coach Peter Vermes said. “I’ll take the blame on it. I’m the coach, no problem. Bring it on. I’ll take it.”
Sporting have had success with their SKC Academy products making an impact on the senior team, but the international opponent proved to be too much for the youngsters to handle.
“A lot of these kids that are in our team should have already played against Leon’s 15’s or 17’s four or five times before they even play this game so that they know what they are playing against,” Vermes said. “But we’re not there yet. We’re working towards it. When that happens, that will be great. I still think the experience for our guys was good because they were shown what it’s like playing against a team of that caliber.”
With Sporting sitting atop the Western Conference and second place in the Supporters Shield race, rotation of players is something Vermes and the squad are dealing with as games continue to pile up.
“First of all, we’d like to win everything that we play in,” Vermes said. “But unfortunately, when you’re playing seven games in 22 days and we play four games in 11 days, with altitude and travel away from home, the reality is that I’m not going to risk guys that have high loads. I’m not going to risk them. I’m just not going to.”
“It’s very difficult, we’ve been getting in late from the away games, getting in at 2 or 3 a.m. and it’s a quick turnaround,” midfielder Cam Duke said. “But I think we’ve been managing it pretty well. We’re just trying to recover as much as possible to get ready for these games coming up.”
Sporting now hit the road again to Texas to take on FC Dallas on Saturday who last came to Children’s Mercy Park on July 31 and handed the team their first home loss this season.
Next three games:
August 14 – at FC Dallas – 7:30 p.m.
August 18 – vs Portland Timbers – 7:30 p.m.
August 21 – at Minnesota United – 2:30 p.m.