The persistent fluctuation in Sporting Kansas City’s lineup is fueled primarily by necessity, a crowded injury list prompting the changes.
Except one. The adjustment at left back is purely a coach’s decision.
Seth Sinovic out. Yohan Croizet in.
It was a change made in conjunction with the team’s rash of injuries this month, yes, but not because of them. The result: Sporting KC is 0-1-2 with Croizet starting at left back, which isn’t his natural position. The team has allowed 10 goals in the three matches, its back line at times appearing out of sync.
So, what gives?
“As you can see right now, we’re in a place where we have a lot of injuries. Guys have played a lot of games at this time,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes replied when asked that very question. “Some guys, I’m looking at them in different positions to see what they can do.”
Asked to expound that answer, Vermes boiled the recent move to this: He’s prioritizing the long-term over the short-term.
Croizet’s insertion in the lineup has offered Sporting’s coaching staff a chance to examine a tweak in its playing style — to see if a more aggressive option at left back might work. And Vermes has embraced the opportunity to assess Croizet’s potential fit in a new spot.
It’s a bit of methodical experimentation for a team thin at the position.
“I have to look at everything and take these early games to see who can do what,” Vermes said. “I’m really trying to find out what all these guys have to offer us and what they can do for us as the season goes on. And Seth had played a lot of games. He was getting a little fatigued.”
That phrasing seems as though Vermes is referencing a short-term trial. He doesn’t talk as though the change is permanent or even a long-lasting fix.
In any case, Sinovic’s removal has been glaring during certain sequences over the three-game stretch. As it usually is. Since the start of 2011, Sporting KC is 87-49-47 when Sinovic starts a match, an average of 1.68 points per match. When Sinovic doesn’t appear in a game, Sporting KC is 34-33-30, which equates to 1.36 points per match.
Asked if he planned to go back to Sinovic soon, starting with Sunday’s match against Atlanta United (8 p.m., Children’s Mercy Park), Vermes said this: “Right now it’s hard to say because it’s going to depend on who’s healthy and who’s fresh and all those things. The other thing (it depends on) is where we are struggling in some other areas of the field and (whether) we need help there.”
One more dependency: What does Vermes prefer to prioritize? Although Croizet is still learning the defensive responsibilities of a new position, he’s a more aggressive player in the attack, given his experience as a midfielder and winger. It’s what triggered the experiment in the first place. Sporting KC has scored seven goals in his three matches.
“He’s very, very good going forward with the ball, but he needs a lot of repetition on the defensive side,” Vermes said. “That comes with time and also with willingness of the person and some soccer IQ.”
Ideally, those nuances are enhanced during practice. Matches, however, provide something of a crash course.
Vermes had planned on implementing several of those crash courses in the early months. Lineups. Formations. New positions. He had an outline. The aforementioned injuries — there are eight of them — rendered all that moot.
“If all our guys had been healthy, I would’ve done so many things differently in games, but we never had that chance,” Vermes said. “I had different ways I wanted to play late in games, or change one or two guys out here or there. But this is what we’re dealing with, and right now I have to see what the guys I have can do.”