When the starting lineups were announced for Sporting Kansas City's match in Toronto, there were a few, okay there were a lot of surprised fans. There was some amazement that Jacob Peterson was the center forward instead of sliding Krisztián Németh to the middle but the real surprise was Colombian midfielder Jimmy Medranda listed at left back.
Outside back on both sides has been a revolving door this year with at least six players having started at left or right so when Medranda was listed, many fans thought the team was throwing in the towel to be ready for the upcoming Open Cup match . What the fans did not know was how good Medranda was in one-on-one defending or that he had been slotting into that spot in scrimmages at practice for a few weeks.
Jimmy was originally brought to Sporting KC's attention by former SKC assistant coach Octavio Zambrano who wanted to see the young player on a larger stage. Initially Medranda was on loan for 2013 but then Sporting KC signed him in 2014. Medranda has only played midfield for Sporting Kansas City, appearing in 10 and starting 5.
While it was not the first start at left back for Medranda, there have not been many in his career. "I played left back five games in Columbia but it was a little different position, there were three center backs and a left and a right back so it was easier for me," Medranda explained.
SKC manager Peter Vermes was happy with his experiment. "All the credit goes to Jimmy, he is the one that performed well but it's really about us continuing to do the same thing that we try and do and that is try to develop guys where we see that we are going to get the best out of their qualities. More importantly where can they help the team? Credit to Jimmy, he played very well. His instincts really ruled the day which was great to see."
Vermes had described Medranda as a very good one-on-one defender but pointed out that he need to work on his team defending. When Jimmy was asked if that was accurate, he agreed, "yes, he is right."
"Last weeks I worked many times at left back but I need to work more, much more," Medranda added.
Playing a strong defense is often about how well the team works together and Jimmy pointed out that the regulars on the back line helped him be where he needed to be. "Too much," Jimmy laughed. "They know I needed help, they let me know when to come in and they say go when I need to go."
It was not an easy task for his first start at defense; Toronto brought some tough offense to bear on the SKC back line. Giovinco, Altidore, Bradley are enough to worry the most seasoned defenders. "I love to block them, to stop them, it gives personal satisfaction to me," Medranda stated.
Vermes and staff had confidence Medranda could do well
"In Jimmy's case, it's one thing that we were training him for about 4-6 weeks in that position,"Vermes stated. "It's another thing to say that Jimmy has been training really well in that position and to say that we have the confidence to put him in the game. Everybody on the coaching staff felt that there was definitely a risk but it was a risk worth taking and because of his consistency in training we felt comfortable with it. He only got that opportunity because of what he has done in training on a consistent basis. Unfortunately he did not have any other way to prove to us because I wasn't throwing him into games. "
More starts possible?
Did Vermes think Medranda played well enough to earn another start? "For sure, no doubt," Vermes quickly answered. "He played that well. That was not an average performance or an above average performance. It was a fantastic performance. He has one or two things he has to be better at and he will keep working on those and we will keep pointing them out to him. That was a very good performance, the next thing is can he do it consistently? Other players have proven it over time and that is why they have been the starters."
Like most players, Medranda just wants on the field. "If coach needs I play there, I go play there. I play wherever the coach needs me."
Best part of getting the start
What was the best part of getting the start at left back for Jimmy? Was it shutting down a strong offense? Playing the full 90? Or maybe showing his versatility?
"Winning," Medranda grinned.