Team Players Making a Difference for Sporting KC

With injuries and other circumstances, players with smaller parts are making a big difference this year
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, September 24, 2014

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

It’s that time of year for Major League Soccer teams when the going gets tough and the tough get going and that’s just what we’re seeing with Sporting Kansas City these days. Although with a tough few weeks in the past two or so months, Sporting Kansas City seem to be rebounding with renewed confidence that fans have seen in the past few years – the years that resulted in a US Open cup final win and an MLS cup win.

The past three matches – 1 in MLS regular season play against Chivas USA and 2 in the Concacaf Champions League – have shown good results for Sporting Kansas City and the players seem to be back to their old ways – or at least on their way, whether it’s starters or bench players or super subs. Although the ‘bit players’ are often seen as an important part of the team rather than a specific, vital artery who when removed would be replaceable, those bit players on Sporting Kansas City are looking to be the opposite.

They are important and worthy of playing and getting the glory that they seek when scoring a goal or obtaining an assist. Those players, last year for example, would’ve been a Benny Feilhaber or somewhat a Dom Dwyer – who had a breakout season on loan to the USL-Pro team Orlando City SC and had quite a few eyebrow-raising strikes in MLS as well – who weren’t fully stalwarts for Sporting Kansas City yet, but were on the way to becoming one.

In addition to Feilhaber and Dwyer being two of the, not only fan favorites this season, but also the foundational members of the squad has helped anchor the team when players such as Ike Opara and Chance Myers became injured or Matt Besler and Graham Zusi were away in Brazil for the World Cup. Additionally, Claudio Bieler has seemingly turned on a switch that has shown the coaching staff that he is capable of hold-up play, scoring, and having a work ethic that could be worthy of him staying on team; this especially after many people on social media have been venting their frustrations with Bieler, his DP status, and that he hasn’t been playing nearly as much as last season.

Although Bieler hasn’t had as much time on the pitch as last season or earlier this season, there are two other players who have shown they have what it takes to play a part – any part, whether big or small – in the Sporting Kansas City team. Toni Dovale and Sal Zizzo have, when healthy and available to play, shown their worth in goals, assists, and – if anyone who isn’t a ‘The Benny Feilhaber Show’ fan they should go watch it – lend assistance as a talk show side kick. Their teamwork in setting up plays, good off-the-ball movement, and crisp, clean passing has led to some of that renewed confidence because of the finishing that the strikers or forwards are able to follow through with and then subsequently celebrate.

So although some of the higher profile names such as Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, who are – with a correct agreement – probably exhausted from all that 2014 has led them through as a soccer playing journey, a few other, not as notable (in the past at least), players have stepped up and brought a spotlight to other members of the team besides those who are spoken of quite a bit. Regardless of the quantity of the conversations surrounding other players, those such as Feilhaber, Dwyer, Dovale, and Zizzo have provided a lot of the quality seen in the second half of the season and look to sustain that for the last handful of games in the regular season as well as the post season.

NEXT UP: September 26 – Sporting Kansas City v. New England Revolution, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas. 8 p.m. EST, NBCSN

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.