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Tough decisions lie ahead for Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes

Espinoza injury adds to starting lineup questions for Peter Vermes as the playoff race heats up

John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

With no regular season match on the schedule until Sporting Kansas City head to New York to face off against the Red Bulls on October 20th, Kansas City will have time to rest and get healthy as they prepare for the 2012 MLS playoffs.

Seeing as Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza will be out for the next few weeks with a right ankle sprain suffered at the end of a 1-1 draw against the Columbus Crew last weekend, the two-week international break couldn't have came at a better time for Sporting Kansas City.

The club is saying that there is a chance that Espinoza might be healthy enough to play when Sporting KC take on the New York Red Bulls, but that seems like an overly optimistic viewpoint.

Ankle injuries are a tricky deal, and one would have to imagine that the club will not risk taking the chance of Espinoza re-injuring his ankle if he's not 100 percent ready to return to action.

Espinoza has been a vital cog in Sporting Kansas City's success this season, and he will have to play a pivotal role for Kansas City if they are to reach the MLS Cup in 2012.

Simply put; there is no one on the roster that can give Sporting KC what Espinoza provides, which means head coach Peter Vermes has a tough decision to make in regards to Kansas City's midfield come October 20th.

The most obvious choice would appear to be moving Graham Zusi from the winger position back to his natural position in the midfield. In that scenario Zusi would team with Paulo Nagamura and Julio Cesar in the middle, while either Jacob Peterson or Bobby Convey would fill the winger role opposite Kei Kamara.

Convey, who has been out since August with a hamstring injury, should be ready to go by the time Sporting KC play New York, but Peterson seems the more likely candidate to start as Vermes will probably opt to ease Convey back into playing action.

Another option would be to keep Zusi out on the wing, and take a chance inserting a less-proven player into the midfield. Someone along the lines of Oriol Rosell, or Michael Thomas. Peterson and Convey have both played midfield on occasion in the past, and Vermes mentioned last week that Lawrence Olum has experience playing the holding midfielder role, so that option is on the table as well.

Another dilemma Vermes is facing is who he will pick to team up with Matt Besler in the center of Sporting KC's defense.

Olum has started at center back the last three matches, with 2012 MLS All-Star Aurelien Collin on the bench. It's an interesting situation, given the fact that, by all accounts, Collin has been healthy and ready to play. The center back duo of Besler and Collin has been one of the better tandems in Major League Soccer this season, which makes it all the more puzzling as to why Vermes would choose to start Olum over Collin, given the fact that Sporting KC are fighting to stay in first place in the Eastern Conference.

For his part, Olum has done a respectable job taking over for Collin, but it was also Olum who failed to mark up on Columbus Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven when Gaven scored the equalizing goal in the 1-1 draw last weekend.

There has been speculation that Collin has been in Vermes' dog house as of late. The rumor flying around the internet was that Collin left the country to attend a wedding and didn't inform Vermes that he was leaving.

Both Collin and Vermes have denied that there is anything more to the situation other than that Vermes currently sees Olum as the better option at the moment, but surely there has to be something more to this particular scenario seeing that Collin is one of the better center backs in MLS, he's healthy and ready to contribute, and yet, he is not in the Starting XI.

Vermes deciding to make a change at center back in favor of Olum at such a critical part of the regular season does seem a little odd with the Chicago Fire only trailing Sporting KC by three points in the Eastern Conference with two matches remaining.

I imagine that the Olum experiment ended in Columbus, Ohio. Expect Collin back in the starting lineup on October 20th against the Red Bulls.