Sporting KC Left With Personnel Issues Up Front

Sporting faces tough decisions in the attacking slots
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Monday, September 16, 2013

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.

The ambiguity that Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes faces each week could be called a good problem, yet it’s a problem nonetheless. A team that boasts some of the best attacking players consistently records higher than 20 shots and less than 5 of which are on goal.

Sporting’s attacking depth became a little less potent on the last day of the summer transfer window when Kei Kamara was bought by English Championship side Middlesbrough. Still, the team is left with some of the best strikers in the league.

Soony Saad has recently stepped up in a huge way and has certainly become a mainstay on the left wing. Another emerging player is Dom Dwyer at center forward. The Englishman taken in the 1st round of last season’s MLS SuperDraft had an unimpressive season last year, but after being loaned to Orlando City he has scored 1 goal and is a very tenacious player in the middle of the field. That tenacity led to Benny Feilhaber’s strike from 30 yards against Colorado 3 weeks ago.

Last week, Sporting announced the signing of Spanish player Frederico Bessone. Bessone is listed as a defender and will be playing primarily as a leftback sub for Seth Sinovic. He is said to be able to play anywhere on the left side of the field.

CJ Sapong ended an extremely long scoring drought last time out against the Columbus Crew. Sapong is getting increasingly more minutes and is another player that seems to be getting back in favor. With Kamara gone, the right wing is likely Sapong’s spot to lose.

Last season, Jacob Peterson was featured on the left wing often, but Peterson has only seen minutes in stoppage time so far this year. Given Saad’s dominance on the left and the arrival of Bessone, Peterson will be lucky to get playing time at this point.

Sporting’s marquee signing during the offseason was a DP striker in Claudio Bieler, who enjoyed a sensational start to the season but has since cooled down and even slipped into a scoring slump. While the slump was broken last week against Columbus, the goal was only scored from the penalty spot. Having come back from an ACL tear and surgery at the beginning of this season, Teal Bunbury is being consistently played as a SuperSub by Vermes, but hasn’t scored yet this year.

With Saad having locked up the spot on the left wing, Kansas City’s right and center forward slots are up for grabs. Most notably, Vermes’ problem choosing a center forward is strange because it is neither player’s fault they do not hold the starting position. As noted before, Sporting consistently plays within the opponent’s half of the field without being apt to getting the ball into a center forward. Simply because Bieler is a designated player, he seemingly should be the candidate for center forward. However, despite only earning 1 start so far, Dwyer is clearly a more in-form player and, like Bieler, cannot play as a winger.

The depth issue on the right wing is much less complicated. Sapong played on the right last weekend and likely has won it for another week with a goal against Columbus. A tactical approach Vermes took at the beginning of the season was deploying Graham Zusi on the right, and this worked very well. Zusi was able to keep the field spread and SKC could have two defensive minded midfielders, Paulo Nagamura and Uri Rosell. If Sapong does improve to the player he was last year, SKC’s attack may be better focused toward the middle of the field with Zusi in the middle of the pitch.

In Sporting’s next game against Real Esteli in CCL play at Sporting Park, some players used for depth can be expected to see some time as Sporting has a game on the weekend in Toronto. Bessone may make his debut on the left as a substitute, and Dwyer may get yet another chance to make a claim for the starting center forward position.

NEXT UP: September 17 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Esteli, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kans. 8 p.m. EST, Fox Sports 2.

Skylar ROLSTAD

Nationality:
USA
College:
Univ. of Kansas
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
AC Milan
A student at the University of Kansas. He writes for the Sporting Kansas City club column for Soccer Newsday and is a regular at Sporting Park. His passion for soccer can best be described as unhealthy.
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