How Much Does Claudio Bieler Teach Us About Sporting KC?

Sporting’s biggest signing of a year ago has only scored 1 goal in 2014
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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

All business, economic or supporter opinion factors aside, Sporting Kansas City has still been revolutionized over the last 4 years. SKC coach Peter Vermes’ squad plays a fantastically fluid style of soccer that not only wins points at home and on the road but it supremely entertaining.

The 4-3-3 formation employed by Sporting has been the tried blueprint of 2013’s MLS Cup champions. However, throughout the last few seasons there has been an apparent need for a focal point. Sporting needed to bring in a proven goal scorer and did so by acquiring Claudio Bieler, the prolific Argentine who scored often in the Ecuadorian league over the last year with LDU Quito.

Despite being Sporting’s leading scorer in the 2013 season, Bieler has not worked out the way he should have. Vermes benched him for most of the playoffs in 2013, although part of that was attributed to the emergence of Dom Dwyer, who is currently challenging for MLS Golden Boot. The 2014 season has cemented Bieler’s doubt for his future as a Sporting Kansas City player. He has been disappointing in rare appearances.

Any expression of disappointment or failure for the 30-year-old comes with a disclaimer, however. Signing a forward like him seemed a perfect fit for Sporting’s possession-based system, a pass-equipped forward with a knack for scoring goals is exactly what Bieler is. Bieler would work nicely as a false nine or attacking midfielder, but Sporting Kansas City uses neither. Instead it is Dom Dwyer who finds Sporting Park a better home.

More prone to drop in between the wingers, Bieler expects to see most of his touches toward the middle of the field. Ideally, a player like Bieler centers the Sporting KC attack and makes it more able to find the final ball. Since signing Bieler, Sporting have proven they are not that kind of team. Instead Sporting’s focal point belongs to Graham Zusi or Benny Feilhaber, players that can distribute the ball quickly to the wings. As a result, that style of play requires a striker that makes dynamic runs in behind center backs and scores with his head or first touch. Dom Dwyer fits that description rather perfectly.

Sporting’s style of play has been widely ballyhooed in recent years. The comparisons to Barcelona or the Dutch national team sound great, but aren’t very close to the truth. If Sporting’s approach to soccer is similar to any recent giant I would compare it to Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern Munich. Heynckes’ team won with a quick, versatile striker in Mario Mandzukic and kept the ball well without sacrificing the ability to resist to counterattacks. While Sporting use defensive tactics very similar to Barcelona and have an aptitude for developing Spanish midfielders (Uri Rosell and Toni Dovale), their attack is much more direct.

Sporting Kansas City shouldn’t be so quick to call Claudio Bieler a failed signing. Regardless of falling out of favor in 2013, the Argentine led Sporting in goals scored. Throughout each and every disappointment Bieler has been a team player and hasn’t been outwardly combative toward his teammates or his manager. With Dom Dwyer in excellent form and not looking like letting up, Sporting is expected to offload Bieler in this transfer window.

NEXT UP: August 1 — Sporting Kansas City vs. Philadelphia Union, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas. 8 p.m. EST, NBCSN.


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.