It's cliche, I know, but the real preseason begins now for Sporting Kansas City.
The Kansas City Star
I know that Kansas City's preseason officially started 18 days ago in Tucson (where they went 1-0-2) but doesn't the current camp in Orlando feel way more official?
After all, it's the first time in 2013 that Peter Vermes will have the full roster at his disposal to train/coach/tinker with. Well, there are a few exceptions: Mikey Lopez, the team's first-round draft pick, is joining the U.S. Men's U-20 team as it attempts to qualify for the 2013 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey. The qualifying tournament starts on Feb. 18 in Puebla, Mexico. Lopez will likely miss the entire Sporting preseason.
Injury has knocked two other players out of the first-team plans for now: Jacob Peterson and Teal Bunbury are both recovering from surgery.
Fitness aside, this is the meat of the preseason: Roster decisions will be made, formations and playing styles could be tweaked, positional battles will be waged, combinations will be created. You name it. The time is now.
We could get some answers to pressing questions: How will Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi look together? Is there a new formation in the works? Will the style of play change to a more possession-based attack? How soon will Claudio Beiler be fit? Is Bobby Convey back? How's Oriol Rosell going to handle the increased attention? What sort of goal celebrations can C.J. Sapong conjure without his running mate Kei Kamara?
Well, we might not get the answer to all of those. But the important thing to remember: We're less than a month from first kick and KC is going to have some competitive matches in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic on the slate for the next week. Yeah, good feeling.
Up first: Kansas City takes on the Montreal Impact at 2 p.m. today at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
What's The Disney Pro Soccer Classic?
It's a two-week preseason tournament hosted by Kansas City's USL-Pro affiliate Orlando City. It's organized into two groups of four teams that culminates in a championship game between the top finishers in each group.
Kansas City is grouped with Montreal, D.C. United and the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies. The other group: Toronto FC, Philadelphia, Columbus Crew and Orlando City.
How Can I Watch These Games?
Well, if you've got enough bandwidth (and, really, who doesn't these days?) you can stream them on MLSsoccer.com.
It wouldn't be the preseason without a few trialists, would it? Kansas City will bring, to the best of my knowledge, three guests to camp: fullback Mechack Jerome (a 22-year-old Haitian who has been with KC the whole preseason; he scored the lone goal against Portland last week) and midfielder Adama Mbengue (a 19-year-old native of Senegal). Both are from Orlando City. The last trialist is midfielder/forward Nick Zimmerman, he was the USL-Pro's leading scorer in 2012 with the Carolina RailHawks.
Two Big Questions
It's the preseason, let's keep this light. I'll even take a crack at answering them.
1. Will today's lineup be instructive to how Vermes is leaning for his opening day roster?
My gut instinct is: No. There are several position battles that are left unsettled (left wing, central midfield), so my guess it that Vermes will play with different combinations in Orlando to see what works best.
The only thing that matters is that no one gets hurt and certain players (cough Claudio Beiler cough) establish some on-field chemistry.
2. How much do these next three games matter?
No matter the result, let's put this into perspective: It's the preseason. I don't put a lot of stock in the results. You shouldn't either. Kansas City didn't win a single game in last year's Disney Classic (drawing with Houston and Montreal, losing to Vancouver) and somehow managed to start the season 7-0-0. Imagine that.
It's a training and adjustment period. Look for the small things: How the new players are clicking with teammates, how the younger players are controlling the ball, what sort of passing channels the team is utilizing, how the play is developing, the defensive communication, etc.
For Fun, Part 1
Every one needs to watch this video. Every one. Then imagine how they'd do this now and leave your version in the comments.
For those of you not old enough to remember the 90s they were very strange.
For Fun, Part 2
If you're not listening to it, I highly recommend checking out the Kick The Ball podcast. It's the brainchild of James Starritt and features myself and the incomparably talented Zachary Cobb and equally awesome Laura Byrne. Give it a listen. It's recorded every Tuesday -- and released that afternoon.