With Sporting Kansas City about ready to bail on KC for the (only slightly) warmer climes of Tucson, Arizona, manager and technical director Peter Vermes is, by his own admission, "very, very happy" with his team after one week of training.
"At this point, I almost have to hold [the team] back a little bit," Vermes said after a crisp hour-and-a-half-long training session at the Arrowhead Indoor Training Facility on Friday. "That's not a bad thing."
Throughout the week, Vermes had sorted his team into "veterans" and "younger guys" in an effort to let the veterans "go about our business." By Friday, he felt that both groups had assimilated well to the team's plans to hold a combined session.
The team spent the training period focusing on speed drills and group attacking/defending.
The group attacking/defending drill -- which was five on three (including the 'keeper) -- focused on the attacking players switching positions and using overlapping wide players. The defenders would establish a two-man offside trap and look to stifle the attack.
It's a fun drill to watch because of its high-speed nature and the small attacking triangles the movement creates. It provided some very sweet goals by Soony Saad, Peterson Joseph, Michael Harrington, Seth Sinovic and Aurelien Collin among others.
On Sunday, the team will leave for Arizona, the period of training that Vermes referred to as "our evaluation period."
There will be some cuts on Saturday, according to Vermes. (I'm only speculating, but I wonder if guys like Supplemental Draftee Pablo Punyed and Full 90 favorite Birahim Diop -- both camp no-shows -- will be among those cut tomorrow.)
After the small cuts, the rest of the squad "will travel so we can evaluate guys on the big field, 11 v. 11, and see who can stick," Vermes said. "We don't have a lot of [roster] spots left. There are a lot of guys fighting for those few spots, but I'm not going to fill them just to fill them. I want to make sure the guy we bring is quality -- technically, tactically, physically and emotionally. The standard we have here now, the [new] guys have to conform to the group not the other way around."
I can tell you from first-hand experience, that's a massive change from the last two years when Vermes and his staff were trying to implement massive changes to the structure and tactical philosophy of the team.
As for any new players joining the team, Vermes said there is one guy the team is working on bringing into camp. "I don't know if he'll get his visa or not. He's coming from Sierra Leone. I can't tell you if he is [coming] or not right now. Yesterday, he went for his visa appointment." He may join the team in Arizona. Other than that, "We are working on a few guys to get in." He did not expand on that.
According to Thad Bell, the unnamed player was hanging around with his fellow country-man Kei Kamara last year and has trained with the Missouri Comets.
The U.S. national team trio of Graham Zusi, Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong will not start training until the team hits Tucson.
As for injuries: Roger Espinoza, who had been given the last two days off to heal from back spasms, was present today but spent the hour and a half running and stretching. Paulo Nagamura and Jacob Peterson are both rehabbing injuries -- Nagamura is close to full training and Peterson tweaked his leg during the week. Daneil Cyrus was not present, as he is reportedly dealing with a family issue.