How Young SKC Players Will Make Their MarkWith call-ups and injuries, newer Sporting KC players can show they have what it takes
by Katherine Rupp | Thursday, May 22, 2014
A handful of fresh, young players have come up within the Sporting KC squad in the past few years, and this season is no different. Regardless of recent results at home against Philadelphia and in Chicago against the Fire, Sporting KC has a lot to be hopeful for with their young squad, new faces and relatively young veterans.
Sunday, May 18, was the first time for 17-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown to start in an MLS match. It was a game in which there were some controversial calls — moreso for Sporting Kansas City fans than for Chicago Fire fans — but the young Homegrown player showed that, although he had some momentary lapses of never playing in an MLS game before that he also had flashes of great intelligence.
Palmer-Brown, although not the first choice of center ack – but with Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Lawrence Olum and Uri Rosell unavailable to play at the position – he was deployed for the first time. Keeping in mind that he is only 17, the defender played well with how much pressure he was – and still quite possibly, is – under, as well as playing alongside World Cup vets in his teammates such as Benny Feilhaber and playing against the reigning MLS MVP in Mike Magee. Palmer-Brown, who has turned the heads of those at Italian giant Juventus and subsequently been the focus of a possible $1 million transfer, should be one to continue to watch, whether in MLS games, reserve league games, is added to one of Sporting KC’s USL PRO affiliate, or the Academy’s U-18 team.
In addition to Palmer-Brown as an up and coming star in the Sporting KC ranks, so should his fellow defender, Igor Juliao. The Brazilian, who was on the eye of scouts especially during this year’s preseason in Florida (where Sporting KC played his club with whom he’s on loan from, Fluminense FC), impressed the KC staff enough to acquire him throughout 2014. Juliao was an unused sub in his first 5 games he was able to play for Sporting KC but went the full 90 in the past 2 matches as the defensive pairings have been depleted in recent weeks with injuries and international call-ups. The 19-year-old is quite versatile – a characteristic seen in many Sporting KC players – as he played on the left in a 3-5-2 formation with a more winger-like deployment rather than as a fullback. Although with both games he has started Sporting KC have unfortunately lost, Juliao will continue to prove his skill as more and more games are under his belt.
Two other players, although not as young as Palmer-Brown or Juliao, that have made an impact with the short amount of time they’ve been at Sporting Kansas City are Antonio Dovale and Alex Martinez. The 24- and 22-year olds, respectively, have had to take some big steps in their careers by having 2014 be the first MLS season for the pair. With Feilhaber and Nagamura at the reins of the midfield, Dovale and Martinez are in good hands with the MLS vets at the helm. Both midfielders, similar to Brazil-born Feilhaber and Nagamura, were born overseas – Dovale in Spain and Martinez in Uruguay – and have soccer in their blood. Add in playing with MLS vets and getting semi-consistent minutes with reigning MLS Cup Champs in Sporting KC and Martinez and Dovale are certainly 2 other players to watch this season.
Although some, maybe most, fans and supporters will see having injuries and call-ups as an annoyance to the MLS season with a diminished squad, it’s also a great opportunity for young players and new faces with Sporting KC this year to make a mark on the team. It may take a little longer for all pieces of the roster puzzle to click the way the coaching staff and supporters would like, but this season’s team still has something special to it – similar to last year’s MLS Cup winning team – and with the aforementioned younger players or recently acquired players – whether bought or on loan – getting the nod to start or sub in against MLS opposition, those experiences will pay off in the long run.
NEXT UP: May 23 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Toronto FC, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas. 8:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live.