London City player-coach Gentjan Dervishi knows how important it is to field a regular lineup.
There was no better example of that than last weekend, when his soccer team was embarrassed 5-0 on its home field by Windsor Border Stars They travelled to Michigan and were beaten 3-1 the next night by the same team.
City had a patchwork lineup as many of their players competed in the Ontario Cup with their "other" teams in the Western Ontario Soccer League Premier Division.
"You have to have players," Dervishi said after the loss. "You just can't do it this way."
When London City plays Italia Shooters tonight at Cove Road field beginning at 8:38 p.m., City hopes to have some of those players, such as Gentjan Butzilli, Eris Tafaj and Esa Buklu, back in the lineup.
But the problem will be ongoing. London City has signed affiliation agreements with some Premier League teams, meaning they can use City players. But when big games come up for teams like London Polish White Eagles and London AEK, those players usually commit to their club sides.
Last Friday a number of players didn't suit up for London City because their teams were committed to Ontario Cup games on Saturday.
London Marconi was eliminated, but London Polish and London AEK advanced. Polish and AEK will meet in the next road of that competition, which is a month away, but there's still Premier League games to worry about.
"We just have to take it one day at a time," said Ryan Gauss, City general manager who took over from father Harry, who is home with health issues. "It's not an ideal situation. It's been a difficult transition with everything that's happened. We didn't have time to sign players and we couldn't get it all done. The players who are affiliated with us are committed, but they play club soccer as well."
That isn't much consolation to Dervishi, who has to somehow fill the holes when the players aren't there. Often he doesn't know until hours before the game who will be available.
"I don't think any of us expected to be in this situation. It's not a situation that Gentjan wants to be in," Gauss said. "But we've just got to keep moving forward. Everyone needs to show some patience."
City will get yet another test tonight against the Shooters, the best team in the Canadian Soccer League. The International Division leaders have won four and tied two, scoring 14 goals and giving up two.
London City has a tie in four games. They've given up 11 goals and only scored twice.
"I think along with Serbian White Eagles, the Shooters are the best team in the league," Gauss said. "Hopefully, if we have our players, we'll be competitive."
The only time City had a full lineup was when they played Toronto Croatia to a tie.
It should be a lively show on and off the field. More than 100 minor players from Clinton and the Oakridge Soccer Association will be in attendance.
Gauss hopes what they see won't be R-rated.