There will be no complacency at Sporting Kansas City

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Sporting Kansas City has big ambition this year, hoping to get back into U.S. Open Cup championship territory and making some noise about becoming the first MLS club to conquer CONCACAF Champions League.

Oh, and there’s that MLS Cup title defense thing, too!

Either way, manager Peter Vermes promises there will be no complacency this year. You can already see it at work.

Sporting Kansas City chiseled out a 1-0 win today over the New York Red Bulls in preseason contest that featured something very close to both clubs’ first-choice lineup. But Vermes wasn’t exactly thrilled with his starters, and he wasn’t afraid to say so.

What he told the club’s website:

To me, the first group didn’t work hard enough and part of that is smart enough, as well. They just didn’t combine the two things: intelligence and work ethic. Because of that, we had to run a lot more. We didn’t do the things that we normally do. It’s good because I can use it against them all here the next couple days and I will.

Hmmm. Anyone else wonder if Vermes is looking for opportunities like this one, chances to push his players and periodically remind them that no amount of “fat and happy” will be tolerated?

Of course, there’s another way to motivate players, and that’s with the threat of more players (read: “potentially better” talent) coming in. Here, too, Vermes could have just been goosing his guys, grinding the gears and looking for more out of his charges. Or …

There’s a good possibility that there’s going to be a few more players that will join the team. We’re still working on those. The roster is like a living, breathing entity. It never is fixed. It’s never done. You’re constantly looking to improve and things change within the group. I always say, players don’t stay the same. You’re either getting better or you’re getting left behind.

With two front line men (Matt Besler and Graham Zusi) sure to miss a major chunk of May and June for World Cup duty, perhaps Vermes just wants some roster reinforcement. Benny Feilhaber remains on the U.S. roster bubble, too, so that would be a threesome of lost starters.

Or, maybe the manager is looking for cover behind DP striker Claudio Bieler, who fell out of favor late last year.

Or, maybe he wants a player who is comfortable playing way out wide. It’s the one thing SKC’s roster seems to lack, a pure winger, one who could provide some diversity in the way Vermes’ men can attack the opposition – although lack of one certainly didn’t hurt too badly in 2013, did it?

(MORE: SKC trades Teal Bunbury to New England)

Transfer rumor roundup: PL duo eyeing Asensio and more

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The ongoing World Cup hasn’t halted the transfer talk across global soccer, and on Wednesday there are a number of potentially intriguing storylines.


Two Premier League sides are chasing Real Madrid attacker Marco Asensio, including Chelsea and Manchester United, while they will have to battle Paris Saint-Germain as well.

Although Asensio is prepared to stay in Spain next season, he wants to be assured of playing time under new manager Julen Lopetegui, who recently joined the club.

The 22-year-old scored 11 goals in all competitions last season for Los Blancos.


Juventus continues to have several players at the center of transfer rumors, and Miralem Pjanic is a name that keeps popping up.

The midfielder won’t come cheap though, with Juve reportedly set to ask for $92.6 million in the event that a club wants to acquire Pjanic.

Barcelona is rumored to be seeking a move for Pjanic with Andres Iniesta now heading to Vissel Kobe in the J-League.


New Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is reportedly looking to bring several of his former Napoli players to Stamford Bridge, including Belgium star Dries Mertens.

The Blues are seeking more attacking options ahead of the fall, and the veteran Mertens has become a proven commodity in front of goal over the course of his Serie A career.

Uruguay reaches Round of 16 courtesy of Suarez

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The first two nations have advanced to the knockout phase out of Group A.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Uruguay reached the Round of 16 on Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia, who has been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.

Hosts Russia will also reach the knockout rounds with the Uruguay win, thus eliminating Egypt as well.

The Barcelona striker gave Uruguay the lead in the 23rd minute, after a poor read from Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais.

Suarez was given a wide-open finish at the far post off the corner kick for his first goal at the World Cup. The 31-year-old had scored a combined five goals during his last two World Cup appearances (2010 & 2014).

The Uruguyans dictated the tempo throughout much of the match, but Saudi Arabia’s back line held strong for the majority of the game.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Uruguay will close out group play against Group A leaders and hosts Russia on June 25, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt will tango that same day.

Video: Goalkeeping error grants Suarez, Uruguay gift

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Luis Suarez was clearly upset with his lack of finishing in Uruguay’s opener last Friday, but the Barcelona man is finally on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup.

[MORE: Ronaldo’s early header gives Portugal win over Morocco ]

The veteran striker gave Uruguay the lead in the 23rd minute after a close-range finish off of a corner kick.

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais came out to try and collect the cross, however, he was slow in his reaction, allowing the ball to slip through to Suarez for the easy finish.

The Uruguayans will reach the Round of 16 with one match remaining if they hold on to their 1-0 lead.

NZ women’s coach placed on leave after player complaints

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) The coach of New Zealand’s women’s football team has been placed on leave pending an investigation of complaints about his conduct from members of the national team.

[ MORE: Senegal holds off late Poland charge for Group H win ]

The complaints centered around tactics Andreas Heraf used in a recent home international against Japan and his comments to media after that match. Players reportedly objected to the defensive nature of Heraf’s tactics in the 3-1 loss.

New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin said at a news conference on Wednesday that his organization had received a letter from the New Zealand Professional Footballers Association, containing letters of complaint from 13 national team members.

Defending his approach at a news conference after the match, Heraf said the New Zealand players would never have the “quality” to compete with a team of Japan’s ability and might have lost 8-0 if they had not adopted a defensive style.

Further reports have emerged of player concerns about Heraf’s behavior, including allegations of bullying.

Martin was repeatedly questioned at the news conference about when New Zealand Football first had notice of the players’ concerns about Heraf. He insisted he was not aware of any problems until the letter from the NZPFA containing the players’ complaints was released on Monday.

In a statement, New Zealand Football Chairman Deryck Shaw said player welfare was “of utmost importance.”

“We hold player welfare as a matter of utmost importance and that is why we are conducting a thorough, independent review. We want to ensure we better understand these issues in an objective review. There is no place for inappropriate behavior of any kind with New Zealand Football.”