Trending. In today’s fast-paced information society driven much by social media, trending is a good thing. It means something has caught on, caught the attention of thousands of people or more.
Personally, though, trending can be a trap. We can trend towards the positive, and lose focus on important things or people that matter. We can trend towards the negative, and lose focus on our own worth. Worst of all, we can tend to trend, losing balance in our lives.
Even, maybe especially, professional athletes.
This article – titled “’Strong to go up again’ – Sporting Kansas City’s Gerso Fernandes” documents Gerso’s first season with Sporting KC in 2017 and the challenges he faced coming into 2018.
And then Gerso did not gain his first start of the season until June 3. Game 14.
“In the beginning [of the season], I was struggling. I wasn’t the same. And I had a difficult time to come back to what I used to be,” said Gerso before Wednesday’s training session.
“Players’ careers – sometimes that’s the way they go,” said Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes in reference to Gerso. “Sometimes you stay there for a while and have a little dip.”
But for Gerso, it seemed a worrying trend over his time with the club. Up. Down. Up. Down.
“The whole thing is: how do you get out of it?” Vermes posed.
“We had a conversation a little while back,” Vermes revealed. “And he stated that he was committed to [succeeding as a professional footballer], and he’s going to prove it.”
While Daniel Salloi, and sometimes Johnny Russell, started matches in Gerso’s former left wing spot, Gerso was a late sub - a valuable role, but one that makes it difficult to find the flow of a match, or to be ready mentally and physically to perform the second you step on.
One goal and one assist – each important in each match – were the numbers Gerso put up. His value beyond the scoresheet, though, was evident. His pace and skill meant chaos for fatigued defenses trying to stay organized late in matches. His quickness caused trouble, even though Gerso’s moves didn’t always come off. But getting back to the starting eleven was a challenge.
And it’s difficult to face competition. Doubt is often the first thing that enters the mind, leading to a distracted mind.
“My focus has been better. Having players who play the same position as you and they are as good as you or could even be better, that makes you get your focus and do what you have to keep up with them. That’s the big challenge for me,” revealed the 27-year-old native of Guinea-Bissau.
Gerso’s chance came due to injuries to others and others on international duty. So he started at home June 3rd versus Minnesota United. A difference-maker all match, Gerso assisted on Diego Rubio’s late goal in the 4-1 win. Since, the left winger has started 13 of 14 MLS matches, scoring four goals to go with three assists.
“He has recommitted himself to the reason why he came here in the first place: to play soccer,” said Vermes. “Sometimes when you come to a new place, you have a lot of changes in your life. I think he had a lot of those; he needed to get refocused on why he came here. It’s very evident that he’s refocused… I’m proud of the fact that he’s demonstrated to himself that he can do it.”
“Peter always talks when he sees we are struggling with practice and the games. And my teammates, they helped me,” Gerso stated. “They talked with me to be patient and to keep working. It’s good when you are in an environment where people care about you and they help you with your issues.”
Right winger Russell knows about being patient while battling for playing time and for the starting eleven, about not letting personal struggles impact the team. Most recently Russell won that battle at former club Derby County before coming to Kansas City just prior to beginning of the MLS season.
“Once he had his chance, he’s taken it. Not everything [he attempts] comes off. It’s not always going to come off, and sometimes it can be frustrating,” Russell conveyed. “He’s continued to work hard. He’s continued to keep doing it, and the game at the weekend shows what he’s capable of. It’s nice for all of it to come together like that, especially in one game because it shows people the quality he’s got.”
The performance last Saturday in a 5-1 away shellacking of San Jose Earthquakes was vintage Gerso:
With more assists this season (Eight goals and two assists last season in 2238 minutes, Five and five this season in 1332 minutes) and smarter runs off the ball (look how he stays onside above), Gerso has continually attracted attention and unbalanced defenses.
“Off the ball, he’s a willing runner defensively, and he always makes runs for you when you’ve got the ball. He’s constantly a threat, a pest to play against. He’s a huge part of what we are trying to do here,” Russell summed up.
A committed, positive-trending Gerso opens up possibilities for himself, his teammates, and his side. As Sporting KC heads down the playoff stretch and more and more likely into the playoffs, the Gershow will play to captive audiences from here on out.