The wait is finally over...kind of. Preseason is upon us SKC nation. If you’re like me last season left a very bitter taste in your mouth, and you angrily watched a Seattle Sounders team lift the MLS Cup. But next Sunday starts the beginning of a new season full of hopes for history making and trophies. Sporting Kansas City leaves for preseason next Sunday and will play their first game likely the following weekend although the final schedule hasn’t been announced. Now while these are just preseason games and carry no weight and will likely have different line-ups quite frequently, there are a few things that I’ll be looking for during these games.
Erik Palmer-Brown is finally back from his loan. EPB was sent out on loan last year to FC Porto B in order to gain more experience on the field and off the field. There have been rumors that he didn’t want to return and was actually requesting a move, but it seems like for the moment he is staying put. I think Vermes has to find a way to get him into the line-up on a somewhat consistent basis. I highly doubt he’ll accept being loaned to the Swope Park Rangers.
Ideally EPB holds down the third center back role and gets to start roughly 15-20 games to give the ever fragile Ike Opara breaks, and filling in when Matt Besler is gone on international duty (when EPB isn’t out representing the U-20’s). If you want something to calm those nerves of starting a 19-year-old at center back look no further than the excellent job done by Justen Glad this past season for Real Salt Lake, or even the sometimes great play by Tommy Redding of Orlando City SC.
Blessing & Fernandes
If the thought of a new Designated Player doesn’t get you excited then I don’t really know what will. Gerso Fernandes is exciting not only because he is a designated player but also because he fills the need for dynamic wingers. Sporting’s play on the wings last year was dismal after trying to replace the ability of Krisztian Nemeth with guys like Brad Davis and Justin Mapp.
Sporting didn’t stop with just the signing of Fernandes they also went out and signed an exciting young prospect in Latif Blessing. While some think Blessing will be a SPR player this year (and I do think he will see some time with them), I also think having a player with the speed and dynamic ability that he possesses coming off the bench could be a real weapon.
Defensive Midfielder Battle
Sporting announced shortly before the SuperDraft on last Friday that they had signed former Barca B player Ilie Sanchez. This also fills the need of depth at that position, something that was very apparent that SKC didn’t have last year (in Lawrence Olum), but could possibly give Mustivar some competition for his spot. I don’t just see Sanchez as a depth player but rather I see this signing by Peter Vermes as a competition to push Mustivar or even say to Mustivar if you’re not performing there is someone else that can take your spot. I’ll be very interested to see who is starting the preseason games as it gets closer to that first regular season game.
Left Back Possibilities
Jimmy Medranda took over the left back position last year from Amadou Dia and really made it his own, but the signing of familiar face Igor Juliao really proposes the question of who’s spot it really is. During his previous stint with the Sporting many would say that Igor’s ability going forward was undeniable but that his constant desire to go forward also left Sporting very vulnerable. While Medranda did like to get forward as well he did possess slightly more ability in defense. It’s possible Juliao will just be a right back though.
However, these aren’t the only two fighting for that spot. Let’s not forget about old faithful Seth Sinovic. Depending on Fernandes or Blessing’s (or really whoever is playing on the left wing) ability and desire to play defense I could see Vermes sticking Sinovic in to help compensate for them.
These are just the four things I’m most excited about. There’s of course several other story lines for preseason like whether Graham Zusi will play right back (not likely in my opinion). No matter what you personally are wanting to see, I think we can all agree that seeing Sporting Kansas City back in action is exciting enough.