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Left short: Sporting KC’s Medranda return to action is a long process

Left knee recovery will keep first-teamer out for over a year.

MLS: Sporting KC at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Opposing backs and wide men overwhelmed defending Sporting Kansas City’s possession, quick ball movement, and numbers in the attack; then, would-be-attackers being too fatigued and shell-shocked to foray from their own end with the necessary verve and cleverness due to the defensive pressure those numbers bring to bear.

It is an ideal scenario in Sporting Kansas City’s 4-3-3 attacking and often high-pressure setup.

And, ideally, the setup includes wing backs who can attack with precision and speed with their passing and their one-on-one abilities and who can be a threat to score to pin back those opposing backs and occupy those opposing attacking wide men.

March 10, 2018 – Jimmy Medranda enters Sporting Kansas City’s match at Chicago Fire in the 69th minute for the more defensively-minded Seth Sinovic with Sporting leading 2-0. Fourteen minutes later, an opportunistic Medranda scores on a well-placed shot to tie the match back up after Chicago had scored three straight (Yes, defensive errors by Medranda did contribute to two of the goals against.). Three minutes later, the match would be won on Felipe Gutierrez’s second goal of the night.

Two weeks on at Colorado Rapids, the Columbia native is subbed in at halftime and helps Sporting KC score a draw after being down two goals at the half. That’s four goals scored with Medranda on the pitch for 67 minutes.

For the next eight games, Medranda starts, improves his defense, and contributes a goal and an assist and a consistent attacking presence on the left side to complement Graham Zusi’s proven attacking potency on the right. Sporting Kansas City goes 5-1-2 in those eight Medranda starts, outscoring their opponents 15-4 and gaining five shutouts, including 2-0 wins at LA Galaxy and Atlanta United and a 6-0 dusting of Vancouver Whitecaps at home. After five seasons of playing various positions, Medranda had made one his own and had scored a goal that was in the running for MLS goal of the year.

And then he felt a pop in his left knee during a training in late May. He never took the field again in 2018 for Sporting Kansas City, often watching from a suite as they finished atop the Western Conference and into the Western Conference Finals in the playoffs.

The injury took a while to reveal itself; then an MRI in August led to surgery in early September to correct a cartilage defect, as reported by The Kansas City STAR. At that time, the thought was that the six-year Kansas City veteran – who will turn 25 on February 7 – would return by April or May of this season. Unfortunately, that is when he will likely be back to training. It will be a bit longer before seeing the field.

“He’s with us. But we probably won’t see Jimmy on the field until probably June or July,” said Manager Peter Vermes via phone from Sporting KC’s preseason camp in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Tuesday.

“It’s because of the process he has to go through: It’s a very cautious and meticulous one,” continued Vermes. “The ideas is that after this first leg [of the preseason, which ends February 7], he will go back and have another MRI, which he keeps doing for them to follow the progress. If all that’s well, he should start running, which is a huge step.”

After Medranda went down last May, Spaniard Cristian Lobato (subsequently released in the offseason), Homegrown product Jaylin Lindsey, and Sinovic all took-up at left back, with Sinovic eventually taking the lion’s share of the minutes.

When Sinovic was suspended for the first leg of the Western Conference Finals, regular attacking mid/winger Frenchman Yohan Croizet deputized for Sinovic. But in the offseason, Sporting KC signed 30-year-old Rodney Wallace, a nine-year MLS veteran who can play left back, as well as a wide midfielder, possibly winger. Wallace has displayed strong attacking abilities during his career, producing 24 goals and 29 assists in 203 MLS appearances.

Expect the resilient rock, the sure ground, the firm foundation that is Sinovic to battle it out (or share time with) Wallace in the preseason and on into the season as Kansas City heads into a busy, and early, campaign as detailed by the Kansas City STAR’s Sam McDowell.

But odds are, it will be Medranda who will be given every opportunity to take back his spot come June or July. It’s a long road back to being Zusi’s attacking complement:

“It’s not just getting him back to kicking a soccer ball, but we have to get him physically conditioned because he will have been out about seven or eight months without doing anything,” Vermes pointed. “So he’s going to have to do his own offseason, his own preseason, and then he’s going to have to start getting into training.”