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Khiry Shelton - The falsest of 9’s

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Conversations about Khiry

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been discussing Khiry Shelton with your Sporting Kansas City friends and family. Shelton, and Croizet, are the two major pieces added to Sporting over the off-season for which success or failure has not been attributed. The other additions, Felipe Gutierrez and Johnny Russell, are clear successes; they are in a 8-way tie for 3rd place in the (albeit, very early) golden boot race with 5 goals each.

Croizet had it rough at the beginning. I’m still not sure he’s contributing at the level he needs to be to warrant the investment, but I continue to see flashes (of what I assume Vermes sees) and hold out hope that those flashes continue to be more frequent and result in a significant contribution to the team. Croizet has excuses too: being played out of his natural position for a few outings as well as having to acclimate to an entirely new league.

Shelton, however, does not have the excuse of coming from a different league and having to acclimate, though he is changing positions.

So, if you’re anything like me, you have had to field inquiries about what you think about Shelton and listened to a number of people who have expressed their displeasure in his play.

MLS: Sporting KC at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

“I like everything about him... except the whole scoring thing...

or lack thereof”

That’s been my answer when his name comes up. You see, there are good things going for him, he had a ridiculously good play (especially for a forward) that likely saved a goal in New England. He’s held up play very nicely at times, he’s provided pressure on defense and he’s managed to pick up two assists. Anyone who says that he hasn’t done anything well is either speaking in hyperbole or fooling themselves.

But when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net... it’s been rough. That chance vs. Seattle obviously comes to mind, but then there’s the free header in New England that he has to get on frame, even if it’s right at the keeper. It wasn’t the easiest chance to convert, but make the keeper make a save!

He seems to be a player severely lacking confidence and way overthinking his chances. I have to imagine the Seattle chance would have worked out better if he hadn’t had the time to take a touch.

But everywhere else on the field, or even when he’s in front of goal but delivering back-heel assists, he seems to be ‘feeling it’ and letting the years of training and experience do the work. When he needs to score he is second guessing himself, thinking his way through the problem and ends up being just a bit slow or just a bit off.

How much more leeway does Vermes give him?

Let me first say that I am a fan of the potential of Shelton. If he starts putting the ball in the back of the net then he can be quite a good fit for a #9 on this team. But, without goals, he’s really just an extremely advanced attacking midfielder. The reason that we expect a #9 to score goals is because that position is in the best spot in order to score. Not getting goals from that position means that the team has to work harder to get goals, comparatively, and Peter Vermes is the type of guy who exploits comparative advantages... I doubt that he is going to readily accept being at a comparative disadvantage.

I just wonder how long Shelton has to struggle in front of goal before Rubio gets a shot to make the spot his, and Shelton gets a chance to get some confidence at the Swope Park Rangers. What is the point of saying that there’s competition for every spot on the field if a player is able to under-perform and continue to start?

In any case, I sincerely hope that Shelton bags a hat-trick on Saturday and everything is put to rest, because if we actually get some scoring production from our #9 then I think it’s safe to say the rest of the league really should watch out.