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Medranda standing tall for Sporting KC

Left back playing best soccer of career

MLS: D.C. United at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

Sporting Kansas City left back Jimmy Medranda strikes for goal, Saturday, March 31, against DC United:

That is an attempt on goal done with conviction.

“When I hit the ball, I thought the ball was going in,” said Medranda, Sporting KC’s only Columbian native.

Although it can be difficult to read, we all know confidence when we see it: The actions, the ways, the approaches, the demeanors of confident people are clear.

To this observer, too much during Jimmy Medranda’s still-young soccer career has been fitting for the proverb – “He who hesitates is lost.”

The foot skill and the pace have always been present, as have the sparks of electricity in the open-field. Talent and work-rate were never in doubt. It was the confidence, the conviction to beat the last defender or to finish the ball in the final third that was too-often missing. Like a golfer who dazzles until he nears the green, he may falter in the final approach, or he can hit the putt with the right spin in the right direction according to the topography, but one rarely got the feeling the ball would go in the hole.

The 24-year-old has been with Sporting Kansas City under Peter Vermes’ tutelage for five-plus seasons now, coming to the side on loan from Deportivo Pereira in Columbia in 2013, then signing permanently in February of 2014.

From 2013-2015, the diminutive Medranda made eight starts in 13 appearances for the Sporting KC first-team with no goals nor assists. The next two seasons saw a certain up-tick with 24 and 25 starts and 33 and 32 appearances in all competitions respectively. But many of those were due to subbing for injured starters or in U.S. Open Cup matches. Production didn’t follow: only three goals and three assists in all those matches.

There was another question during those days. Who is Jimmy Medranda? Is he an attacking midfielder? Is he a box-to-box midfielder? Is he a winger? Is he a left back? He displayed some strong 1 v 1 defending skills yet was lost in the more tactical and responsibility-laden role of box-to-box midfielder. And, still, the seeming hesitation when it came to money time. The question arose in the mind… Will the REAL Jimmy Medranda please stand up?

Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes it takes competition. Sometimes it takes an evolving in the dynamic. Sometimes it takes a moment…

Medranda’s first goal of 2018 leveled a match in which visiting Sporting Kansas City had sprinted out to a 2-0 lead over Chicago Fire on March 10, only to relinquish it in a period of 13 minutes. Much in part to Medranda’s confident, intentional, and smart finish, the match was won 4-3.

Medranda entered the match, as he has in three of the five games this season, as a substitute left back. But after his goal in Chicago and the best full-performance of his career in 45 minutes of the come-from-behind 2-2 draw at Colorado Rapids two weeks later, he was granted the start at left back in last Saturday’s 1-0 shutout win over DC United at home.

Up until that start, the 5’8” Medranda battled a pre-season injury and Spanish-import Cristian Lobato and hometown stalwart Seth Sinovic for playing time… and this is important … at one position – left back.

“He started off really well in preseason camp, and then he got injured. That set him back physically,” said Vermes.” … Jimmy has all the qualities. He’s a very good soccer player. For him, the last piece has always been the physical. He’s starting to get that. And some of that is playing games.”

Finding playing time at one position – as the midfield and winger slots have been more solidified – is crucial. Competition can be a mind-opener too. But Medranda has become even more valuable as Vermes has molded his side into one that moves the ball with more-and-more speed.

“It’s the speed of the ball. You have to move the ball quickly, almost so you can play one-touch,” Vermes explained. “Players on other teams are very fast; they are athletic; they can close down space quickly; they can anticipate situations. So you have to be able to move the ball.”

Vermes added that moving the ball with speed makes it nearly impossible for opposing sides to focus their defensive strategies on one or a few players. The more Jimmy Medranda is quick and decisive on the ball to help it circulate and penetrate defenses, the more effective he makes Felipe Gutierrez, Graham Zusi, Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, et al.

Although Vermes credits Medranda’s success to his stronger physical fitness rather than a leap in confidence, Medranda himself admitted feeling more confident overall.

And although Vermes highlighted Medranda’s positional versatility, one has to believe that Medranda has found his home at left back as from there he now rarely hesitates to take on players, moves with confidence and a clear purpose, and strikes with much more conviction.

Jimmy Medranda circa 2018 elicits utterances like, “Damn. He’s arrived.”

“My goal is to play all 34 games. I want to start,” stated Medranda. “Now my big goal is to be a champion with the team.”

To be a team champion takes a mentality to champion yourself first…

“When under attack, it is necessary to evaluate the situation and decide instantly upon a proper course of action, to be carried out immediately with all the force you can bring to bear. He who hesitates is indeed lost. Do not soliloquize. Do not delay. Be decisive.”