New England Revolution v Toronto FC

Questions to answer in MLS preseason camp: Sporting Kansas City

2 Comments

(Through the week we’ll look at three Major League Soccer clubs per day, considering what they need to accomplish and what questions deserve answers during preseason training camps. Opening day in MLS is March 2.)

A U.S. Open Cup trophy and an Eastern Conference regular season crown landed at formerly named Livestrong Sporting Park in 2012. But who can blame Peter Vermes and Co. (and the club’s peppy supporters) for feeling just a little unfulfilled?

Vermes, heading into his 5th season as SKC’s manager (fourth full season), has all the elements in place to make a mark on MLS yet again. It’s mostly about tinkering, tuning up and turning up the best roles for a couple of talented, experienced additions.

Sporting Kansas City seems to have a lot of upside – again. Even more perhaps if Vermes and his club can answer these questions over the next five weeks:

  • Where does Benny Feilhaber fit?

Losing midfield workhorse Roger Espinoza could have been a powerful blow but for the opportunity to scoop up Benny Feilhaber (pictured) at relatively low cost.  The U.S. international is equally as talented as Espinoza, although not the same player. Whereas Espinoza, the Honduran international who just took up with Wigan Athletic, was an industrious ball-winner who could also contribute on offense, Feilhaber is a passing and attacking specialist who can help out on defense.

Sporting Kansas City’s attack system requires loads of effort from the two central midfielders (in front of the holding man) and the wingers. Feilhaber has to show that he’s willing to put in his share of the work load, and that he’ll press, track and defend the way everyone does in Vermes’ high-energy system.

There is also a hole to fill where the departed Julio Cesar played last year, but Paulo Nagamura is a better fit there. Given the busy season ahead, they’ll need a little extra cover and will need to identify at least one more who can provide minutes in the screening role.

  • Does Bobby Convey have a role?

Convey was a big part of SKC’s big start in 2012, but injuries interrupted his progress and in the end the former U.S. international was limited to 14 starts and 18 appearances. By season’s end, he was available but not part of the regular rotation.

He’s on the books for about $215,000 this year, quite a stack of cash in MLS for someone who cannot earn regular minutes.

Convey looked like the perfect left-wing weapon when he came east in a trade from San Jose a year ago. Now, Vermes and the SKC management need to figure out if Convey can be part of the plan around Sporting Park. (It’s no longer Livestrong Sporting Park, you know.)

  • How best to configure the forward line?

There are all kinds of options along a front line that can be configured in several ways.

Incoming Argentine newcomer Claudio Bieler, a Designated Player, will presumably be front-and-center in the plan. So what are the supporting roles around them for Convey, Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, C.J. Sapong, Jacob Peterson and others?

Related to the above: Is Kamara still part of SKC, or will the big attacker be moving on? Is Bunbury healthy and set for an effective Sporting Park return? Where does Zusi best fit, tucked inside in the midfield or out wide along the front line?

Again, it’s about tinkering and arranging. That doesn’t mean the choices are easy, but they are positive choices to have.

MORE in ProSoccerTalk’s preseason camp series:

Up Next: Toronto FC

Adrian, Bilic praise Messi-like equalizer from “pure magic” Payet

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet, left, and Middlesbrough’s Marten de Roon challenge for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Middlesbrough at The London Stadium  in London, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Leave a comment

To hear West Ham goalkeeper Adrian describe it, the Irons should start streaming their training sessions so we can see more magic from Dimitri Payet.

West Ham’s talisman rescued a point for his struggling club when he essentially worked six Middlesbrough players and delivered a terrific finish in a 1-1 draw at Olympic Stadium in London.

[ WATCH: Payet’s wondergoal ]

Adrian says they see that a lot.

“Payet is like that in training,” the goalkeeper said. “He scored like a Lionel Messi goal at Barcelona. It is a massive goal to us.”

[ MORE: West Ham 1-1 Middlesbrough ]

The goal truly was massive, as the Irons avoided losing five in-a-row. They are still in the relegation zone, but baby steps.

Here’s WHUFC head coach Slaven Bilic:

“It was an unbelievable goal, it was a pure magic. It was only a shame it wasn’t a winning goal. We needed that moment of class from our best player to lift the whole team up.”

Sunderland: Moyes disappointed with Defoe miss in draw vs Baggies

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: David Moyes, Manager of Sunderland reacts during the Premier League match between Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion at Stadium of Light on October 1, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Leave a comment

One of the few bright spots for Sunderland last season was Jermain Defoe, and he has four goals this season through seven starts.

But the English striker missed a chance that could’ve given the Black Cats a much-needed lead in a match they wound up drawing 1-1 with West Brom at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

[ MORE: Sunderland 1-1 West Brom ]

Sunderland manager David Moyes is frustrated, obviously, with his club gained just two points from their first seven matches.

But pointing in the direction of the man who has four of your six PL goals on the season is a bit… odd, especially when Defoe is being mentioned as a possible England call-up.

From the BBC:

We didn’t get the three points. We didn’t deserve to be 1-0 down. We had a great chance through Jermain Defoe – expected him to score. We’re pleased we got a point out of it.

…”There was bits of play that got us a chance. Jonny Evans made a good block from Jermain Defoe.

“We need Jermain to score more, although he has got us goals.”

Troubling times in the Northeast, where the Black Cats are again off to a downright horrible start to the season. Eventually, one of these is going to break them.

Watford 2-2 Bournemouth: Thriller sees Cherries pegged back

WATFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Troy Deeney of Watford scores his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Watford and AFC Bournemouth at Vicarage Road on October 1, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Wilson, King twice gave Cherries lead
  • Deeney, Success equalized
  • Wilshere hit post twice, Stanislas hit bar
  • Both teams on eight points

Watford and Bournemouth shared the points at Vicarage Road in a thrilling 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Bournemouth twice took the lead through Callum Wilson and Josh King but Watford equalizes through Troy Deeney and Issac Success. The Cherries went agonizingly close to taking all three points as Jack Wilshere hit the post twice (his second attempt a contender for miss of the season) and Junior Stanislas hit the crossbar.

With the point both teams move to eight points for the season but there’s no doubting Walter Mazzarri will be happier than Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Watford started well with Odion Ighalo going close and Troy Deeney had a shot blocked with the home side looking to get back to winning ways. Bournemouth recovered and went close via Junior Stanislas’ free kick which forced Heurelho Gomes to tip over the bar.

Bournemouth took the lead as Stanislas whipped in a great cross from the right which Wilson nodded home and under Gomes. 1-0 to the Cherries.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Watford went close to equalizing before half time but Artur Boruc saved twice from Nordin Amrabat from close range and then Wilson cut inside and teed up Andrew Surman but he fired over from a great position.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]  

Watford were level within five minutes of the restart as Amrabat dribbled in from the right and teed up Deeney to make it 1-1.

Moments later Bournemouth almost went ahead as Jack Wilshere danced through the Watford defense but his low effort hit the post and came out. At the other end Amrabat again provided a great cross which found Deeney but his header was superbly clawed away by Boruc.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Substitute King then came onto the pitch, beat Amrabat and ran at Watford’s defense before seeing his shot from outside the box deflect in. 2-1 to Bournemouth.

The Cherries’ lead didn’t last for long as a free kick from the left flank found Success at the near post and he flicked home into the far corner. 2-2.

Wilshere missed a glorious chance to put Bournemouth ahead as Smith drilled a great cross in from the right and from six yards out he somehow hit the post. Bournemouth continued to push forward and came agonizingly close to grabbing all three points but Stanislas’ curling free kick bounced off the crossbar and out.

Sunderland 1-1 West Brom: Black Cats fight back to stop the rot

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Patrick van Aanholt of Sunderland (R) celebrates scoring his sides first goal with team mate Jermain Defoe of Sunderland (L) during the Premier League match between Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion at Stadium of Light on October 1, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Chadli gave West Brom lead
  • Van Aanholt equalize late on
  • Sunderland still without a win
  • West Brom unbeaten in three

Sunderland battled back to draw 1-1 with West Bromwich Albion on Saturday at the Stadium of Light but David Moyes‘ side remain without a win this season in the Premier League.

Nacer Chadli gave West Brom the lead and the Baggies looked dangerous on the break through the game. Sunderland huffed and puffed and finally left back Patrick Van Aanholt equalized with seven minutes to go to salvage a point for the Black Cats.

With the draw Sunderland is now on two points for the season and moves off bottom spot, while West Brom now has nine points after seven games.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sunderland had a glorious chance to go ahead earlier on as Paddy McNair sent a superb pass through to Defoe and he went one on one with the goalkeeper Ben Foster but dragged his effort wide. Huge opportunity wasted.

Chadli then controlled a cross from Matt Phillips and his shot was saved by Jordan Pickford as the Baggies woke up after a slow start.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

West Brom took the lead via a counter attack as Phillips raced free and played in Chadli who slotted home his third goal in as many games. 1-0 to the Baggies as the Stadium of Light was stunned into silence.

James McClean then launched a counter attack for West Brom but his cross to the back post just evaded Salomon Rondon.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]  

In the second half Jan Kirchhoff had to be stretchered off the pitch with an injury, causing a big reshuffle for Moyes as Van Aanholt came on.

West Brom continued to look dangerous on the break with Darren Fletcher‘s volley saved well by Pickford, while Defoe had a shout for a penalty kick at the other end. West Brom’s McClean then appeared to kick out at Wahbi Khazri but was only booked.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Sunderland pushed hard for the equalizer and Defoe was found free on the edge of the box but his shot was superbly blocked by Jonny Evans.

Late on West Brom were dangerous on the break as Rondon’s effort was saved well down low by Pickford.

Sunderland’s equalizes arrived in the 83rd minute as Duncan Watmore and Van Aanholt surged forward and the latter got on the end of a loose ball in the box which he into the ground and in. 1-1. Relief for the Black Cats as PVA had his second goal of the season.

The Baggies nearly snatched it moments later as Phillips’ low drive just evaded two of his teammates at the back post, while Defoe’s late free kick went wide as Sunderland had to settle for a point.