The Full 90

Stoke City striker’s fans ready for match with Sporting KC

Updated: 2012-08-01T07:46:48Z

She has at least 15 big posters of him in her room at UMKC, comes from London (like him), plays soccer (like him) and has watched him play live once back home.

But Sophie Rackham had never met Peter Crouch, a lanky 6-foot-7 striker for Stoke City, until 6.45 Tuesday evening in Kansas City.

“I’m supposed to be in a team meeting now because my season starts tomorrow at the university, but my head coach knows how obsessed I am and would love to meet him,” Rackham said.

Stoke City, an English Premier League team, is in town for a match at 7.30 this evening against Sporting Kansas City.

Stoke practiced Tuesday evening at Livestrong Sporting Park. The team was not really there for the run-around in the heat but for fans such as Rackham, who lined up later to get autographs.

Rackham, a midfielder, waited with her parents as Crouch was brought out for a few minutes with the news media at the end of practice.

For Sophie, who first liked Crouch when he was playing at Southampton, one of the seven clubs he has played for in his career, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

She brought along one of the various T-shirts she has with a Peter Crouch theme.

“I’m going to wear it to the game tomorrow,” she said, holding up the T-shirt.

It’s white and features three stick figures of her favorite player doing the robot dance. He pulled off the mechanical routine in 2006 after scoring against Hungary in a pre-World Cup game.

He has since retired the dance, but Rackham hopes he can pull it off if he scores tonight in Stoke’s last game on their tour of the United States.

“I reckon he’ll bring it out once he does another amazing goal,” Rackham said. “I reckon it’s not the end of the robo.”

Crouch’s last amazing goal was a sweetly struck volley from outside the 18-yard box toward the end of the English Premier League season against eventual champions Manchester City. Stoke ended up in 14th place.

He hopes his heroics can contribute to a better performance in the next season, which starts on the road at newly promoted Reading at Madejski Stadium.

Stoke aims to finish the season in the top 10 and get into the Europa League, the second-tier European competition.

“I think we are more than capable of that achievement, you know, having gotten into the Europa League the year before,” Crouch said.

Stoke doesn’t get to watch much of Major League Soccer in England, but the team will be hoping for a strong performance from Sporting KC, which is second in MLS’ Eastern Conference.

Stoke can also get a few insights on the local team from Geoff Cameron, whom they have just signed from Houston Dynamo.

“It will be the last game of the preseason, so we will go out to win,” Crouch said.

Manager Tony Pulis said he was aware of the threat from Sporting KC’s front three, whom he expects to give his back four a good test tonight.

Sporting should also be looking to do better than it did against French champion Montpellier Herault. Sporting did not manage a shot on goal in a 3-0 loss on July 24.

The European teams use their tours in the U.S. to get fit before the start of their seasons, despite the challenge of playing in the summer heat.

It’s good for U.S. teams, too.

For fans like Rackham, it comes with the chance to meet the people they can only see on television, and maybe see the robo dance again.

| John Ngirachu, The Star John is an Alfred Friendly Fellow from Kenya. To reach him, email jngirachu@kcstar.com or call 816-234-4366

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