As the season ran on, there were plenty of comments from KC fans that lamented the lack of subbing that was done by Peter Vermes in games. Fans felt that the lack of substitutions led to tired legs that were unable to help carry the team through the playoffs. This was especially true considering Kansas City had touted the depth that the team had early in the season as one of the advantages of the squad.
With that in mind I took a look at the subbing done by Vermes throughout the season. And overall there were a few things that stood out in regards to his strategy.
During the season in all competitions, KC made 100 of a possible 123 substitutions in their 41 games, averaging 2.44 per game. The average substitution taking place just after the 73rd.
The first thing I looked at was KC's subbing before and after the US Open Cup final. For me this felt like the tipping point of the subbing, it seemed like KC subbed less after the final. With the extra competition going on, one would expect a bit more subbing when KC had the other competition that they were also dealing with. After the final against the Seattle Sounders I expected a drop off in the number of subs with less competitions. On the other hand you could think it would stay close, especially with KC clinching a playoff spot early. Overall, before the US Open Cup final Sporting KC played 27 games in all competitions, making 73 subs for an average of 2.7 subs per game. I also looked at the average time that subs were made. Before the Open Cup final, the average sub was just before the 71st minute. I also looked at the first sub the team made each game before the final and it was just after the 57th minute. When I took out the first half subs (injury subs) that jumped to just after the 64th minute. After the Open Cup, Sporting played 13 games in the league and playoffs. The subbing dropped fairly dramatically, KC averaged only 1.92 subs per game after the final, with the average sub being made closer to the 79th minute. Looking at KC's first sub of each game, it averaged just after the 68th minute, but once again, removing the injury subs in the first half the first sub is around the 77th minute.
I also took a look at the subbing after forward Teal Bunbury got injured since him and CJ Sapong were subbed for one another quite regularly during the season. After the Bunbury injury, KC's subbing fell to 1.9 subs per game with the subs coming just before the 80th minute, as a not much different than KC's subbing before the USOC Final. The average first sub around the 75th minute.
The next thing I looked at was Sporting's subbing in wins, losses and draws. One might expect in losses that you'd see more subs as KC tried to change things up to affect the result of the game. This one turned out to be true, in KC's 23 wins in all competitions, KC made an average of 2.43 subs per game, usually just after the 72nd minute. In their 10 draws in all competitions, KC averaged a few less, 2.2 per game but those subs were later, close to the 88th minute for the average sub. My original premise held true for losses, as KC averaged 2.75 subs per game in games they lost. The subs also came earlier than in wins or draws, the subs coming before the 62nd minute.
The final thing I looked at was subbing at home vs on the road. I figured that we'd see more subbing on the road, and later, especially with KC's road record as KC would look to keep a result. What I found didn't live up to that. While KC did average more subs on the road it wasn't a lot more, averaging 2.63 compared to 2.27 at home. Timing wise it wasn't much different either as subs in away games was just before the 74th minute while for home games it was just before the 73rd.
Overall you definitely see a difference in Vermes' substitution strategy after the US Open Cup, using less subs and substituting later. We also see more, and earlier substitutions in games that KC ended up losing vs wins and draws. While KC didn't use a lot of subs, that leads to another question, and that's whether KC really had the depth that could really make changes? Injuries to Teal Bunbury, Jacob Peterson, and Bobby Convey limited their times and left KC with fewer options on the bench. Offensively, Soony Saad and Dom Dwyer played limited minutes and neither scored a league goal, while Saad had 2 in the US Open Cup. In the midfield, Peterson Joseph was probably the most offensive minded midfielder on the bench and his minutes were limited as well. Looking back on it it doesn't appear that KC had the depth they claimed to have. The depth, or the use of the depth is going to have to improve greatly next year when KC participates in the CONCACAF Champions' League.