For all of the conversation on where Graham Zusi fits into the Sporting Kansas City lineup, the club is subtly testing a positional change for another one of last season’s starters.
After serving as Sporting Kansas City’s primary left outside back in 2016, Medranda has spent the bulk of his time in training camp in the central midfield.
During Sporting Kansas City’s 6-2 loss to New England in a preseason match Wednesday in Tucson, Ariz., Medranda exhibited both the pros and the cons of the potential move in a 75-minute sequence.
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He provided an early goal. But it was followed with a battle against tired legs during a second half in which New England dismantled the Sporting KC midfield and back line.
“I think Jimmy needs fitness in the middle of the field,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’m trying to build up his engine to give us time there. I know what he can do on the outside, but I also think in the middle of the park, he has an ability to give us something different, something special. He’s only going to get into that routine if he’s playing that position at the moment.”
In other words, Medranda will still be considered an option at left back, and he will be a perhaps oft-used, late-game substitute on the left or right wing. In sum: A form of baseball’s utility player on the soccer field.
But during a monthlong preseason, Vermes is attempting to expand Medranda’s versatility to a position he has long envisioned him playing. In Wednesday’s exhibition, a bright spot came early. Medranda struck a 25-yard line drive into the net.
“He’s very good on the ball. He’s got good vision on the field,” Vermes said. “... The final piece is I think he’s got a good nose for the goal. He can really take advantage of stuff like that.”
The flip side is the fitness, though on Feb. 22, that isn’t entirely unusual. But it’s a long-standing subject for Medranda, whose fitness slowed his progress early in his career.
Vermes praised Medranda often in 2016, most notably his improvement in that department. It led to him seeing the most time of his career. Medranda, who turned 23 earlier this month, started 22 games last season after only eight starts in the first three years of his MLS career. Veteran Seth Sinovic has since regained his spot atop the left back depth chart.
Hence the shift for Medranda.
“He can play left back, left wing, right wing. He can play anywhere in the midfield. He can play right back, as well,” Vermes said. “He can play a lot of different positions for us.”
Sporting KC will conclude its preseason schedule Saturday with its finale in the Desert Diamond Cup. The opponent and time will be determined later Wednesday or Thursday.