After what felt like months, I was finally able to make it out to Swope Park for a Sporting Kansas City training session. (To give you an idea of how long it’s been, the last time I stood on the sidelines out there, Chad Ochocinco was training with the team.)
Because I know its of interest to many of you (and there are so many who can’t make it out to training to see for themselves), here are some thoughts from Sporting KC’s training session. (These won’t be complete run-downs.)
The most important thing that you should know: Ryan Smith is back and firing at almost full power. Today, the speedy English winger showed that he hadn’t lost a step speed-wise and his first touch is still softer than a pile of valour blankets. What was interesting is that he was slotted on the right-wing and not his customary left. This is what tactical folks would call “inverted.” Meaning, it allows him to cut inside from the right side with his dominant foot (his left) in an advantageous scoring position.
If you’ve watched Dutch winger Arjen Robben play, you get the picture. (This first goal, BTW, is a really good example of what I mean.
It could be that head coach Peter Vermes is looking for a different angle to play the attack when Smith comes back into the team, or it could be that he’s encouraging Smith to shoot more. Either way, when he comes back (likely April 23), it will be a huge boost for Sporting Kansas City.
These are random things...
• The main focus today was "Press and Possess." The first on-field action was a game with four small goals placed in each corner. The dual object was to score as quickly as possible and win the ball back and get into attack as quickly as possible.
• The next drill was an 11-v-11 full-field game with a heavy emphasis on set-pieces -- both attacking and defending. The team put in some work today.
• Despite the hard work, the mood was fairly light today. The team seems focused, but laid back. Is that the right mind-set before traveling to Columbus? We’ll see.
• It seemed to me that Peter Vermes wants his side to possess the ball in the attacking third and look for combinations. During this portion of training, Teal Bunbury’s work in the hold-up part of the game was very sharp.
• This courtesy of Andy Edwards of The Daily Wiz: “Teal Bunbury is a beast.”
• I said it a few week’s ago, but I’ll say it again: If Kevin Ellis isn’t fighting for a spot in the 18 before August, I’ll be shocked. The kid is fast, strong (he fought off CJ Sapong for 15 yards while attacking with the ball) and good in the air (just about beat Teal Bunbury for a header).
• Michael Harrington seems to be fully healthy now. Which is good, because Luke Sassano and Chance Myers (the team’s second and third option at right back) didn’t participate with the team today.
• Roger Espinoza also didn’t participate with the team except for a shooting drill; we were told after training that he sat out for a personal matter.
• Birahim Diop was again paired with Davy Arnaud and Milos Stojcev for most of practice. He looked very good throughout.
• With Omar Bravo out (it looks like 4-6 weeks for his recovery), CJ Sapong looks to be the best finisher on the team. During a small group shooting drill (with Vermes providing the crosses), Sapong consistently placed his shots with accuracy and power, easily out-performing Stojcev, Diop, Kamara, Espinoza and Bunbury in the drill.
• The teams has four trialists right now. If you read this blog on Monday, you can figure out who two of them are. The other is a young goalkeeper whose name I didn’t catch. The other would be familiar to anyone who went to a single Missouri Comets game. Former trialists Omar Colley and Michal Mravec have left.
• Kei Kamara scored a goal off a header from a corner kick.
• I was talking with Sporting PR guru Dave Borchardt during the game and we were remarking on just how physically big KC is: Bunbury, Sapong, Kamara, Birahim Diop and Julio Cesar are all good aerial targets. Matt Besler isn’t too bad either.
• Be prepared for some activity tomorrow, which is the last day the transfer window is open.