Ten minutes after a satisfying victory against New England last week, Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes sat down in front of the media, where he was promptly asked about the scoring punch that led to a four-goal output.
After a quick answer acknowledging the offensive creativity, Vermes diverted the subject to a play that had a less obvious effect on the 4-2 win. In the closing moments, rookie midfielder Connor Hallisey bypassed an opportunity to aim for his first career goal. Instead, he dribbled the ball toward the corner, allowed a few seconds to tick off the clock and forced a throw-in.
“It shows a lot of maturity from that kid,” Vermes said. “I’ve said this before — he has a lot of potential ahead of him.”
Hallisey is realizing that potential sooner than even his coaching staff suspected.
Hallisey, a first-round pick from the University of California, has appeared in four of the past five matches — and his time on the field has steadily increased in each of those appearances.
That wasn’t the initial plan. When the club drafted Hallisey with the No. 10 overall pick, Vermes described him as more of a long-term option than a short-term stopgap.
Might he become both?
“The first day of preseason, I was a little overwhelmed,” Hallisey said. “I think the first couple of weeks, I was just focused on trying to show my worth of why I should be there. You’re nervous and you’re feeling like you’re just trying to get by and fit in.
“Now I’m to the point where I feel like I can show who I really am and stand out at training rather than just fit in.”
The balance between those two options — standing out or fitting in — can be one of the hardest adjustments for rookies. But there have been enough standout moments during practice to warrant the increase in playing time.
“I don’t want to make it sound like we thought he was a bad player or something, because obviously we drafted him, but he continues to impress us,” Vermes said. “It’s his speed. He’s deceptively fast. He covers a lot more ground than you think he can. He’s got a bigger engine than I thought he would have.”
Through the first three months of the season, Hallisey has been able to showcase those qualities in strictly a reserve role. That, too, has required an adaptation for a player who started every game of his junior and senior seasons at California.
There is potential his first professional start could come Friday, with Sporting KC utilizing a shorthanded lineup against FC Dallas. If so, perhaps the match situation won’t force him to bypass the next scoring opportunity.
Or so he hopes.
“That was tough. You want to go at the guy and score and get that first goal,” Hallisey said. “But I know the scoring chances will come if I stay patient.”