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Re-signed Sporting KC back Seth Sinovic in control

Somewhat superstitious nine-year veteran makes his own breaks

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

It seems that sometimes Sporting Kansas City left back Seth Sinovic can’t catch a break. Even at a press-conference.

Childhood friend and team captain Matt Besler opened the Tuesday presser at Sporting’s Pinnacle National Development Center held partly to recognize the nine-year veteran’s recent re-signing with the club for the 2019 season.

“[Seth has] one of the most intense routines before practice that I’ve seen in my time,” revealed Besler, with a sense of wonder dripping with sure needling.

Manager Peter Vermes spoke after the sandwiched Sinovic.

“I bet Seth talked your head off,” he quipped, alluding to the quiet nature of the Kansas City native.

Okay, Sinovic can’t catch a break much of the time. But being needled by your teammates and coach is a good-natured way of saying, ‘Hey, man, we love and appreciate you.’ And one imagines the affinity for their teammate has to do with Sinovic making his own breaks amidst frustrating times, repeated frustrating times.

Many know the story: Sinovic is a player often looked at as a piece of the Sporting KC puzzle that fits, but a piece that should be replaced with one more dynamic and colorful, one with more “Wow” factor.

Since he began with Sporting KC in 2011, he has been left unprotected in the expansion draft and lost to Montreal Impact, only to be re-acquired via trade; been a staple in the lineup, and won team Defender of the Year in 2014; been beset by a concussion that kept him out more than three months; been replaced in the lineup repeatedly, especially in 2016 (making only nine appearances); and from 2017 to now, as Sporting KC has evolved into a more possession-based, more attacking-style of play, been uprooted by players with more panache at left back to balance the wing attacks away from a somewhat attacking-right-back-Graham Zusi-centric domination.

“He continues to show his value year-after-year. Obviously, the stats speak for themselves when he’s in the lineup and we have a consistent back-four,” said Vermes.

Sporting KC has a 13-3-5 record when Sinovic starts. and the 31-year-old has contributed to 10 clean sheets as a part of the third-best defense in Major League Soccer. More pointed is the fact that when Sinovic was reinserted into the starting lineup on August 4, Kansas City rattled off four shutout wins in a row.

Whimsical fate played a part in his return to the first eleven this season as season-ending injuries fell upon Jimmy Medranda - who had locked up left back in the early going - and another left back on the depth-chart, Cristian Lobato. Sinovic avoided the injury bug through “a lot of stretching, a lot of breathing, a lot of [exercise] bands, a bunch of different stuff,” as Besler described Sinovic’s infamous routine.

“I’ve had a few injuries over the years. I’m a little bit superstitious. So once I find a routine that seems to be working for me and keeping me healthy and staying on the field, I try to stick to it,” Sinovic explained. “Being prepared for practice is something that I can control.”

The contract talks had been going on for the last month or so. “Both sides definitely wanted to accomplish it. It wasn’t a tough process,” Sinovic said.

For Sporting Kansas City and Vermes, coming CONCACAF Champions League play in February likely highly influenced locking up the steady Sinovic – who has started all four Cup finals (2013 MLS Cup and the 2012, 2015 and 2017 U.S. Open Cups) in the last six years – as Medranda and Lobota are at best questionable for the first matches in the nine-nation club competition. Barring the quick signing and integration of another left back, Sinovic will be take up his customary spot then too.

It is a competition that the club has been preparing for and wants to be successful in.

“The fact that he is from here makes him care even more about making sure that the club is successful,” said Vermes of why it was important for Sporting to re-sign Sinovic. “Anytime you can keep players like that in your team, it is incredibly important for not only present success, but also the future. And we’ve signed a lot of younger players, and younger players need mentors and role models. Seth is a quiet guy, but he leads by example.”

Right now, though, are the playoffs. The solid, yet spectacular in his own right Sinovic has his feet and mind full of controlling dangerous attacking opponents like Real Salt Lake’s Jefferson Savarino and Brooks Lennon and Portland TimbersDairon Asprilla and Zarek Valentin. Not surprisingly, the third-most tenured Kansas City player has been more than up to the task.

On Thursday, with a win at home against Portland Timbers in the 2nd leg of the Western Conference Finals, he will have the chance to go with his hometown team into a second MLS Cup, the club’s fourth overall. It’s another opportunity Sinovic has, in many ways, made for himself. And he will be ready.

If Sinovic had been in the conference room when Besler spoke of “one of the best friends anyone could ask for” while giving Sinovic a ribbing, the “loyal and honest” friend would have likely reacted with his patented big smile and angled dip of his head to reveal that reticent and modest, but proud nature. Sinovic knows he’s not underappreciated.

“I don’t know if ‘underappreciated’ is the right word. From day one I’ve always had the confidence of the coaches. ‘Frustrated’ might be the better word,” Sinovic said. “At the same time, I can only control what I can control. That’s my work ethic, and being as good of a teammate as I can. If the opportunity presents itself, I always want to make sure I’m ready to step up for the team. I can only control what I can control. Thankfully, things have worked out well for me.”