Ahead of a road trip to face Eastern Conference contender D.C. United, Sporting Kansas City wasn’t even able to field a full 18-man roster on Sunday in its 3-0 loss to Atlanta United. Hampered with eight men on its injured list, and Gianluca Busio making strides with USA’s U17s, just five men were listed as reserves and one was a goalie.
“We have to keep working. I don’t have another solution,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “When you have a team — and every team has their starters — to then have to supplant all those guys with new players, it's very hard.”
Vermes started newcomers Kelyn Rowe and Botand Barath, substituting in Gedion Zelalem in the 65th minute. Twenty-three-year-old defender Graham Smith made his first appearance of the 2019 season and third of his career, acquired as a draft pick in 2018 from Oregon State.
On Sunday, Sporting KC allowed its 24th goal in its past seven matches (14 in MLS competition). Sporting didn’t even manage to tally a shot on goal up until the 65th minute, despite having three chances sail inches over the crossbar.
“It’s not like we can go, ‘You know what? These guys didn’t work, so we’re changing to these other guys.’ We just don’t have the bodies,” Vermes said. “We have to keep trying to stay alive. That’s just the way it is.”
What was supposed to be deep midfield to supplement returning veterans, and what was once the last MLS team in the Concacaf Champions League now has a short bench tasked with carrying the burden of the whole team.
Kansas City (2-3-4, 10 points) now is just ahead of two teams in the Western Conference.
“Whenever you're facing struggles, it's not like you're going to wake up tomorrow and everything's going to be all bright,” Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia said. “We need to work and claw our way out of this with our work ethic. … The quality is here, we've just got to be back to being us.”
Sporting KC makes their inaugural trip to Audi Field to face D.C. United (6-3-2, 20 points) on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 7 PM ET.