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Reading BTL: Sporting KC President Robb Heineman

Sporting Kansas City president <strong>Robb Heineman</strong>.
Sporting Kansas City president Robb Heineman.

For anyone out there that either missed it, or has yet to take the time to listen to Thad Bell's new interview with Sporting KC president Robb Heineman from earlier this week, go check it out now before reading through the rest of this. It is great stuff as usual from The Back Post. Seriously, GO WATCH IT.

Now that hopefully anyone reading this has taken the time to watch the two part interview, I'm going to go a little deeper into the things that Heineman said in the interview, the things that he didn't say, and what all of those things really mean. Reading between the lines.

I'm not going to go into anything regarding the name change or anything outside of the team on the field. That's all I'm concerned about from this point forward.

On the past season:

Yeah, it was a pretty disappointing season. We obviously started the first couple matches pretty well, and I think honestly that was a bit of a surprise to me. I didn't think we were going to have any continuity to start the season with all the new guys that we had in. And, I think kind of our worst fears became realized in that next thirteen games when we weren't scoring goals and giving up a bunch of terrible goals and it just wound up being a disappointing season, because the back half of the season, we played relatively well.

I think most of the acquisitions we made player-wise have wound up to be good ones. Obviously, I've commented that Escobar didn't work out, but most of them, I think, did pretty well. We just didn't gel soon enough, and that little three game losing streak right there towards the end of the season was bad.

Throught the first minute of the interview, Heineman used the word "disappointing" about a total of five times. That's once every twelve seconds, just for the record.

As a sports fan in Kansas City, I've watched the Royals with management and ownership not care about and not dedicate the proper resources to winning for long enough. That is something I think we will never have to tolerate with Heineman. He's as passionate and ambitious about the team's performance on the field as Royals owner David Glass seems to be about turning a profit off of his team every year.

I think a lot of that speaks to my comfort level and belief in OnGoal over the Sporting KC name change. They've done so much right already, they've talked about doing so much more and they genuinely seem to care about the team, not just turning a profit. That's the sports owner's trifecta.

Matter of fact, I wonder if OnGoal can afford the Royals from Glass...

On whether, and how, things have changed going from former coach Curt Onalfo to current head man Peter Vermes:

I do. I think (Michael) Harrington and (Roger) Espinoza have improved a lot this year. I think those are two guys we were really looking for them to take a step forward. Particularly Harrington, because he had almost started to regress a little bit. So, I feel like he improved.

I think Teal (Bunbury) developed over the course of the season. I think Teal's going to be a monster over the course of the next five, ten years, whether it's here the whole time or it's in Europe. I think he's got a ton of potential.

I think we started to develop a style. The one thing I can say about pretty much every match, going into it, I knew exactly was Peter (Vermes) was going to try to do, and you could see it out there on the field. Now, was the execution always there? No, but I felt like we always had a plan going into the games, and we always had a good, definitive way of in which we though we were going to be able to break down the other team. And, that wasn't always the case in the past.

Stopping just short of saying "Curt was a baffoon and Vermes looks like Einstein next to him," he's right about Vermes and the way he coaches. For the task Vermes was given at the beginning of the season - gelling so many new players together, and into a brand new style for many of them, no less - at times, the results looked like they could be incredible. Vermes is a very good coach for this job, in my mind.

Someone like forward Kei Kamara is certainly not used to playing such a wide role in attack. He says that for himself in his end of season interview, also from Thad. But, to the players' credit, and to Vermes', they worked through early struggles and corrected problems and in the end, played well.

Also, I especially enjoyed hearing the love for my two favorites Harrington and Espinoza. Said it before, will say it a million times more: best fullback duo in the league, and so with many years to go.

On the next step and adding players:

I think we definitely need to have some depth in the back. I think we need to shore that up; we gave away way too many, what I call "gift goals" this year, which was not good. And, then I think we need to find a creative guy in the midfield.

And, just overall, we need more depth. If we're going to go to a reserve roster, which we now are, we want every guy on the roster to have the potential to someday to be a part of the senior team. We don't want to have any throw away slots on the roster.

It's going to be our philosophy going into this offesason that if we can find a 17-year old from Jamaica, and if he's better than a guy we pick in the second round of the supplemental draft, we're going to take the guy with potential.

The center of defense is the most glaring gap on the roster by a country mile. The fullbacks are outstanding, but you can't defending wide only. Jimmy Conrad is aging, and according to him (another great video interview), his future is as up in the air as anybody on the team. It could very well be Conrad and Shavar Thomas starting game one next season, it could be one of the two and someone else, or it could be neither of them. But, it must be addressed, and done so with depth, as Heineman said.

I think there's a small hint about something pertaining to this at the end of the interview. If you haven't watched yet, do so now please.

On future homegrown players being signed:

I think there's at least one, maybe two other Juniors players that will sign in 2011. We're going to take a couple more of them with us to preseason.

The thing that we don't necessarily have in our Juniors program, and it's going to take us several years before we have this in a consistent way, and that's some real attacking options. I think the players that we're largely developing in the US have been defenders and goalkeepers, and not a ton of attacking options. You see that showing up at the World Cup; we haven't had a striker score a goal in a couple World Cups.

Also, use of the phrase "creative number ten" and catching himself from a slip up of saying it's going to "cost" to develop that, but says that they "are committed to trying to figure out how to make that happen over time."

He knows his soccer. Maybe it's just the beaten down Royals fan in me that I eluded to earlier, but it's so pleasant for someone in charge of one of my teams to know what in the world he is talking about.

The "one, maybe two other Juniors players" he was referring to, assumedly, are defender Konner Knoll and forward Jordan Rideout.

How the reserve roster will affect the senior team over an extended road trip to open the season:

I think we've got to have a bunch of guys that put pressure on the guys ahead of them. If we've got a guy that's underperforming, we have to get his ass on the bench and bring somebody else in to try to push that guy. We have to have all these guys constantly on edge, not thinking that their spot is solid. We have to have a roster that challenges one another.

There's really nobody's spot that is sacred. It's all about winning, and we're not going to get complacent with guys if they're not the right guys.

While other teams in MLS may use the expanded rosters for the reserves league as a filling out space for older players already past their prime, it definitely doesn't sound like that's going to be happening in Kansas City. Going back to the 17-year old from Jamaican comment, he talks as if they are going to build a team from the bottom up, but do so without sacrificing the present for the future - again, something the Royals could take a note from. (I'm really not bitter, I promise.)

Also, there are other steps being taken to expand the reaches from which the team pulls players from, too. Hopefully they are more of the young variety, too.

Outside of Ryan Smith at the left winger spot, Harrington and Espinoza at the fullbacks and probably Jimmy Nielsen in goal, there's about seven starting spots that will be heavily competed for next year. There are already a few guys on the roster that will challenge for starting spots once again, and I expect a heavy dose of offseason acquisition again, just like last year. Who knows who could end up in the XI come mid-March.

About a potential first roster move of the offseason:

We've kind of got the first offseason player kind of wrapped up. We don't get to announce our discovery lists until after the season, so even as transparent as I try to be, I'm probably not going to give a lot of details until we know we've got the guy on a discovery list. But, it shouldn't be a huge surprise what area of the field we're focusing on here early on.

I think we're at least one step closer to filling some of those holes.

It's a guy that we've been looking at for the past few months, and Peter has now seen him play in person now a couple times and we've had some discussions with him. Now we're really trying to dig into these guys to try and make sure we understand what's going to work and not work for them, and if they really want to be in the US, and specifically Kansas City.

Since it tends to be easier to find a guy that can be had at a position like central defense, rather than attacking options, I'm going to go ahead and lean that direction for this first guy. Based on how quick it seems to have been attacked, there couldn't have been all that much standing between the two sides, while there are always more problems for offensive type players.

This likely means that either Shavar Thomas or Jimmy Conrad will not be coming back next year. I've got my ideas on who this player could be already, but for now I will say nothing. If I hear anything more, I'll drop some knowledge conspicuously somehow, kind of like last time.

We'll let Robb drop narrow it down fairly well for us...

One more secret that he has yet to give away:

The guy that we're going to sign is from France.

Translation: Nous allons rechercher la totalité de la terre pour les meilleurs joueurs dans le monde.