SKC Won’t Be Lax During Preseason

Goals and aspirations for the 2014 season lead Sporting Kansas City to a diligent preseason
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, January 29, 2014

John Hefti Photography - SKC, Sporting KC

Preseason is underway, which means goals are formed for the upcoming 2014 MLS season, starting spots are fought for on the team and team camaraderie is built and improved upon.

The 2014 roster has not drastically changed from when Sporting Kansas City won the MLS Cup on Dec. 7, 2013, but that doesn’t mean they have not garnered a fresher – if not newer – vision for the new season.

Obviously the main goal for the 2014 season is to be able to retain the title of MLS Cup Champions. Beyond that, however, it may not seem like Sporting KC have many more aspirations to reach but their goals are quite lofty. Included in reaching more titles is the CONCACAF Champions League as well as the US Open Cup.

Though it may not be a goal to strive towards but a – possibly – different way of thinking, in terms of formation, may be on tap for this new season. SKC manager Peter Vermes will most likely stick to his 4-3-3 formation for league games but with preseason comes a chance to try something a little different, perhaps moving players into a similar, but fluid formation.

As the 3 midfielders who were called to national team camp in California and Brazil – Matt Besler, Benny Feilhaber, and Graham Zusi – are still away prepping for the upcoming USMNT friendly against South Korea, the midfield area was lacking firepower for the first match of 2014 – a preseason game against FC Tucson of the Premier Development League.

This lag in midfield led to Claudio Bieler, a natural forward, being deployed as a central attacking mid – or a withdrawn forward, from which he was able to be part of the first goal of the season, grabbing the assist to CJ Sapong’s goal. One musing to make of a somewhat trivial game is that the earlier in the preseason and the MLS season that Bieler impresses and takes his chances to produce assists, goals and quality play, the greater the likelihood the Argentine will have a larger impact on this season.

In addition, with players fit and healthy this season, including Teal Bunbury who had not been ‘Sporting Fit’ for the whole of last season after coming back from knee injury, Vermes will need to use his best tactical approach for an attacking prowess. Although a good problem to have, being a caretaker for an abundance of players ready and willing to play begets Vermes’ ability to choose the gameday roster or a related consideration to make resulting in players being loaned out.

This separate challenge for Vermes and staff to make in the following weeks is deciding what players to send to either USL PRO teams Sporting KC is affiliated with, Oklahoma City Energy or Orlando City. Expect to see newer players, rookies and those struggling to find minutes in the first team, to be loaned to the 2013 USL PRO champion, Orlando City, or the new USL PRO team to the south, the OKC Energy, that will be coached by recently retired and former Sporting goalkeeper, Jimmy Nielsen.

Dom Dwyer, who had been linked to a move clubs in England over this offseason, encountered quite a bit of success after being loaned to Orlando City in 2013. Moving back to Sporting Kansas City after his stint in Orlando, Dwyer looked to have a certain pep in his game that propelled the KC men to a great end of the 2013 season and postseason. The coaching staff will look to have this same type of situation, where a player goes on loan and comes back with some renewed confidence, in the new season.

As usual, a preseason doesn’t often mean a lot to the whole of the season but rather to gauge where the players are in terms of fitness, touch on the ball, and specific intangibles like the players getting along. However minimal a preseason means, after ending up on such a high note for the 2013 season, Sporting Kansas City should look to this preseason to use for building blocks for a strong 2014 run.

NEXT UP: February 1 –Friendly: Sporting Kansas City v. Portland Timbers, North Stadium at Kino Sports Complex, Tucson, Ariz., 8 p.m. EST.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.