Photo by John Rieger/USA Today Sports
By FRANCO PANIZO
Replacing a seasoned veteran like Matt Besler is not easy, but that’s the challenge Peter Vermes faces this week.
Besler was sent off with two yellow cards in Sporting Kansas City’s season-opening 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, and Vermes now needs to find someone to take Besler’s place in the heart of the defense ahead of this weekend’s match.
Sporting KC visits a talented FC Dallas team on Saturday, and while it hurts not having Besler for the Western Conference showdown, Vermes is optimistic about the club’s other options.
“It’s never good when you’ve lost your captain, when you’ve lost one of your central defenders because it’s a major pillar within your team,” Vermes told SBI. “You have to deal with it, but we’ve got quite a few guys. We can play Jalil Anibaba, we can play Erik Palmer-Brown, we can play Kevin Ellis, so we have some options, for sure.
“Dallas is a dynamic team and have a lot of team speed and they’re very tenacious in the attack, so it’s something that we’ll definitely have to be attentive to over the course of 90 minutes. I have confidence in the guys that we have that can fill in as well.”
The one center back who took the field against the Red Bulls in the aftermath of Besler’s ejection was Palmer-Brown. The teenage Homegrown product was not Vermes’ first substitution following the sending off, but was subbed on in the 85th minute to help close out the result.
Palmer-Brown, 17, has limited experience in MLS. He made his first two career starts and played in three games in his sophomore season last year, but could be looked at as the player to complement center back Ike Opara on Saturday at Toyota Stadium.
“I actually think that when he came in, he did pretty well and was confident in his decisions,” said Vermes when asked about Palmer-Brown’s performance. “He was good on the ball, so his progress continues to be good and he’s still a very young kid. He’s still 17 years old, so it’s great to see him get better every day.
“The big thing for him is how well he can continue to grow that fire in the belly that all players need. He’s still a young kid. That’s the piece that needs to continue to grow, but I thought the other night coming into a game like that at that point and a man down, I thought he gave a good injection of some calmness on the ball and at the same time came up with some big moments as well.”
It is not just Vermes who was impressed by Palmer-Brown, who has recently been linked again with a move to Juventus. Some of the youngster’s teammates also think he showed well, and that he has what it takes to do the job against Dallas if needed.
“As long as he keeps working, the sky is the limit for that kid,” Opara told SBI. “He proved it all preseason, and if his number is called, I’m sure he’ll be willing to step up as well.”
Palmer-Brown could have a tough time going against a tall vet like Perez… will definitely see what he’s made of in that case.
please play EPB, he’s on my fantasy MLS team…
This to me is the game of week!
Lots of young defenders on both Squads, future USMNT prospects as well!
This will be a tough game for SKC without Besler. Add in the fact that FCD is actually a really, really, really good home team ( I think people seem to forget that). They’re almost unbeatable at home over the last 1.5 yrs.
We’ll see what happens. 2-1 FCD.
FCD too good at home and SKC without Besler will cost them.
Also, Mauro D. vs. Roger E. should be a good one. I like some Midfield battles in this one too!
Besler’s first yellow was baffling, a couple minutes before, Kljestan had a studs up challenge that in some situations is shown red, and not even a yellow was pulled. As long as Toledo is still being rolled out every week, I have a hard time believing there is any real effort to improve overall quality of officiating in MLS.
As a disinterested spectator, I would like to see a pairing of Opara and Palmer-Brown. Would be intrigued to see how actual Sporting KC fans feel.
(SKC fan) That is what I want to see. EPB’s first start was being throw into the Fire (Chicago actually) in a 3 man back line, he got two yellows that game and looked like a 17 year old getting his first start in a exposed 3 man back line, but had some great “ok this is why a 17 year old is so sought after” moments. If Vermes is willing to do that, I don’t see why you wouldn’t start him with Opara in this situation.
I would like to see this pairing as well… as Anibaba didn’t impress me too much in the preseason. He seemed erratic at times and if I am going to choose an erratic center half I’d rather see the 17 year old on the pitch than someone else. Anibaba, perhaps, has a better left foot than EPB, but I am not certain of that, just judging off the fact that when he was brought in he was pegged as someone who could play in all four backline positions.
Kevin Ellis, for me, is purely depth and while he is younger than Anibaba, he is slight when it comes to size (5’9″). He, too, would pair better with a more composed back like Besler, although its quite ironic to say this after Besler’s two silly yellow-cards the other night.
I thought EPB looked pretty good in his cameo on Sunday. Definitely looked better than Miazga who is a couple of years older. I’d like to see him start and hopefully get a little run as a starter. Of course, I’m not an SKC supporter.