KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Would Matt Besler have been healed up enough to rejoin Sporting Kansas City for their next match?
It’s a moot question, with Sporting’s veteran central defender suspended for Sunday’s home date with the Portland Timbers (2 pm ET; FOX in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada) because of a new rule implemented by league owners last December that bars players who were selected to play in the AT&T All-Star Game but missed the match from playing in their club’s next contest.
Besler missed Thursday’s 2-1 defeat to England’s Arsenal FC with a strained left MCL, a training-ground injury that also forced him out of last Sunday’s 3-0 home win over Seattle in league play. Portland center back Liam Ridgewell is also suspended for Sunday’s match after sitting out the All-Star Game with a calf strain.
Sporting manager Peter Vermes doesn’t think the suspensions are fair, especially with his club already so depleted by injury that Kansas City might not be able to field a full 18 on Sunday.
“I think the rule needs to be looked at,” Vermes told reporters on Friday, “from the point of view that if you miss the game prior to the All-Star Game, then I think that trying to force a guy back, when he can be back in league play in the next game following the All-Star Game, has to be looked at. It’s an easy compromise.”
Besler’s suspension and fellow central defender Nuno Coelho‘s ongoing struggles with a thigh strain aren’t Vermes’ only roster woes going into the Portland match.
The list of those not expected to play because of various injuries also includes wingers Graham Zusi (hamstring strain) and Brad Davis (calf strain), midfielder Paulo Nagamura (thigh strain), forward Justin Mapp (calf strain) and potentially winger Jacob Peterson, though Vermes said Friday that his status was still uncertain.
Sporting can’t get short-term loan help from USL side Swope Park Rangers, Vermes said, because the number of available players is not below the emergency hardship threshold.
“I think it’s that you have to have 14 players available,” he said. “If you don’t have more than 14, then you can start calling other players up. We’re close.”
Even with the depleted roster, Vermes shouldn’t have to play anyone drastically out of position against the Timbers.
At least nine players from the XI against Seattle are expected to be available on Sunday, with Zusi and Peterson the lone possible exceptions. Connor Hallisey will likely slide into the lineup for Zusi, while left back Jimmy Medranda could potentially move up the field if Peterson can’t play. Medranda has played on the wing before, and both Seth Sinovic and Kevin Ellis – who can also play at center back – would be available to slot into the backline if Medranda moves up.