Where is SKC’s New Captain?

With Zusi and Besler gone on national team duty, a few Sporting KC players are ready to shine
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, May 14, 2014

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

Things seem to be clicking with the right players at the right time for Sporting Kansas City.

Not only do US national team stalwarts, and Sporting KC favorites, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi consistently perform at the highest ability every week, they also – with a huge probability – will be missing from the team for over a month, starting after the game against Philadelphia. Once Besler and Zusi are gone for the second half of May as well as a large chunk of June, a handful of other players will need to step up to the (figurative) plate to take larger roles in leadership on and off the pitch. Three players who are on the right side of the fence and in good form, and are in prime position to show that streak in good form are Oriol Rosell, Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber.

The Catalan Uri Rosell has been something of a revelation this season. Although only 2 months into a 9-month MLS season, Rosell has shown fans, critics, pundits and players alike why Sporting KC scouted and brought him over from Barcelona. The defensive midfielder is not the flashiest player on the team, nor should he be, but what he doesn’t exude in theatrics on the field, Rosell replaces with calculated, concise, and crisp confidence of his abilities and play. Sporting KC would be smart to rely on the former Barcelona youth player because of his intelligence of how Sporting KC play with just enough firepower in the offense, and just enough grit and understanding in the defense, to excel as a team.

Recently during the away game at Stade Saputo in Montreal, Rosell showed his brilliance and how he’s on the upward trajectory this season to transcend his previous season’s records and statistics. The midfielder notched 160 passes completed out of 166 tries, which is very much a Xavi-esque statistic. Even when Zusi and Besler are with the team, continue to watch Rosell in 2014 – just his second full season with the club – as he consistently makes the players around him play well.

Dom Dwyer also – similar to Rosell – is just in his third year, but only second full season with Sporting KC, has shown flashes of creativity and imagination as the center forward in Peter Vermes’s 4-3-3 formation. The Brit has played in every MLS regular season game of the season so far, in which only 1 out of those 9 games he’s played in he has been subbed on. Dwyer also has tallied 13 shots on goal, as well as 6 of Sporting KC’s 13 goals this year. His inventiveness on the ball and his smart runs off the ball – even these past couple of games, in addition to last year and especially after his loan to Orlando City SC – have given Sporting KC another offensive firepower to slot up top on the field along with Jacob Peterson, Soony Saad, CJ Sapong, and Claudio Bieler. With such a strong showing of his skills and pace in the first two or so months of the MLS season, Dwyer has a large chance at showcasing his abilities and stepping up his game this summer.

Not only will Dwyer and Rosell do some of the heavy lifting while Besler and Zusi are on national team duty, Benny Feilhaber – who some would say was on the bubble to make 30-man roster but was incorrectly left off – could possibly be the ‘rudder’ of the Sporting KC ‘boat’ this summer. The former New England Revolution player has very much come into his own at Sporting Kansas City, and his ingenuity – along with now fitting in the Sporting KC system – on the field will pay off with great dividends through KC coming away with wins and staying atop (or at least vying for the top spot) in the Eastern Conference.

Although Zusi and Besler will miss time in the next handful of weeks, supporters should feel as if the Captain has left the team in good hands with each teammate doing his part for the end goal of another MLS Cup in December. As it is, Rosell, Dwyer, and Feilhaber look to make the biggest impact, but subsequently, other players – and fan favorites – such as Eric Kronberg, Seth Sinovic, Paulo Nagamura, and Aurelien Collin can be called upon to continue in the tactically astute and winning ways of Sporting Kansas City. And even with the US national team members gone in California and then, most likely, in Brazil, Sporting KC need not worry with all of the talent and depth left on the squad, especially in Dwer, Feilhaber, and Rosell.

NEXT UP: May 14 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Philadelphia Union, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas. 8:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

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.