It’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle when a recognizable NFL and reality TV star like Chad Ochocinco (Johnson) announces he’ll be joining Sporting Kansas City on trial. (If you live under a rock, the Ocho-sideshow will roll into Kansas City next Tuesday for a four-day trial period.)
But before that circus reaches town, there’s the matter of a very shrewd and important roster move: The signing of Serbian midfielder Milos Stojcev. I’ve heard a lot about him this off-season and I got to watch play a little bit on Wednesday for the first time.
He played predominantly (but not exclusively) with many of the first-choice forwards (Teal Bunbury, Omar Bravo and Kei Kamara). He seems comfortable on the ball and the team feels he brings a different element to the midfield, creativity -- something severely lacking in the middle of the park in 2010.
Stojcev also fits the team’s M.O. for foreign transplants: He’s young (24), slightly overlooked (his last team was FK Borac Čačak in Serbia), has a good pedigree (Red Star Belgrade’s academy system) and positional flexibility (he could play either as an advanced attacking midfielder or wider to the left).
The left-footer will be available for the team this Saturday against Chivas USA.
The additions of Stojcev and Julio Cesar this week bring the Sporting KC roster to 26. They have seven international players and one open international slot.
Michael Harrington, Ryan Smith and CJ Sapong will all likely be listed as questionable on the team’s injury report.
“Smitty, the good thing about him, is that he's running without pain. Michael tweaked [his groin] this week, so he's getting treatment,” head coach Peter Vermes said. “CJ had a little thing yesterday, the trainers asked to give him the day off. He didn't want [to take a day off] and I didn't either. But the trainers asked [and CJ watched from the sideline].”
I expect Sapong and Harrington to dress on Saturday. Smith might be a few weeks out and worked into the team slowly.
The other notable absence was Korede Aiyegbusi, who has been ruled out for Saturday with an ankle injury.
The Starting XI
Vermes said after the session that he hasn’t narrowed down a Starting XI quite yet.
“To be honest with you, I'm trying to decide right now on an 18 (players to dress on Saturday). It's getting more and more difficult as guys are going down with injury every day,” he said. “There's a sickness going around too. I've got to make a decision in the next 24 hours. The 11 will come as we get closer to the game.”
The team is, understandably, a bit uncomfortable talking about potential starters and formations and the such. (Vermes is a big fan of the element of surprise, especially for the first game of the season.) So I won’t go that far. But I will list my observations from today’s session:
• Matt Besler got a lot of reps next to Julio Cesar in central defense. Also, Besler is an absolute beast.**During Media Day, Vermes raved about Besler’s preparation this off-season. He didn’t say he’d made the leap and he wouldn’t go so far as to say he is in a make-or-break year, but he was visibly impressed by the Overland Park-native.
• Teal Bunbury wears a comfortable-looking brace on his arm and really played hard today.
• Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but someday Homegrown player Kevin Ellis is going to be a nice player in MLS. He’s quick, likes to attack and plays much bigger than he actually is. Several impressive solo tackles from him.
• There could be nothing to do this, but Stephane Auvray was rather anonymous. If not for his signature hair, I’d have wondered if he was inside training with Harrington. Could be a bad sign. Could’ve just been a bad day.
• Since Vermes won’t let his Starting XI against Chivas slip, I’ll speculate in his place: Nielsen, Harrington, Cesar, Thomas, Espinoza, Auvray, Rocastle, Arnaud, Bravo, Diop, Kamara. I’ll even guess the reserves: Kronberg, Lorenz, Besler, Stojcev, Zusi, Sassano, Bunbury
• Absolutely zero unknown trialists. Hooray!