Diego Rubio arrived in Kansas City in the first week of March, and during his initial trip to the United States, his first destination was the Sporting Kansas City training grounds. After half an hour, he rather simply assessed where he might fit in with his new club.
“I score goals,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
An assertion brimming with confidence — and the profile to back it up — provided Sporting KC with sufficient reason to acquire the 22-year-old Chilean striker as a young designated player.
But during the first seven weeks, the self-described job description has also spun as a detriment. While mixing in glimpses of his offensive flare, Rubio has appeared pressed to make something happen from nothing. To manufacture offense.
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To, as he put it, score goals.
“I told him there’s more to playing for us than just scoring goals. There’s other things you have to do in the game,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “I think the chances will come, and when they do, instead of trying to force them ... if you just back off a little bit, things will come and will fall your way.”
And, finally, they did.
In Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw in Vancouver, Rubio scored Sporting KC’s only goal. An errant shot from midfielder Lawrence Olum coincided with Rubio making a run past the Vancouver defense.
Right place. Right time.
“When you think too much to score, normally you don’t score,” Rubio said. “(Vermes) spoke to me before the game. I went to the game more relaxed, more calm. I felt better in this game.”
Rubio also forced a pair of yellow cards from referee Armando Villarreal’s front pocket, both of them shown to Vancouver defender Kendall Waston, resulting in Watson’s early second-half ejection.
Vermes commended the performance from Rubio, who occupies a tenuous position on the roster. His loan from Spanish-club Real Valladolid expires June 30, at which time Sporting KC will have the option to turn it into a purchase. Vermes said he hasn’t yet come to a conclusion on the long-term future for Rubio.
Or the short-term, for that matter.
With Sporting KC scoring only three goals in its past four matches — heading into Sunday’s home match with the LA Galaxy — the club has looked for ways to finish more of its chances. Might one such option entail Rubio and striker Dom Dwyer sharing the field?
“Sure, there’s a possibility,” Vermes said. “That will be more of a game-to-game idea. (It) could be a possibility if I change formation and play more of a 4-4-2.”
The shift from the typical 4-3-3, however, doesn’t appear to be a near-term change, if it’s made at all.
“I always consider all options when it comes to formations,” Vermes said. “It’s just that sometimes it’s not warranted for me, especially if I think we’re on the verge of getting our rhythm like something that we’re doing now.”
Instead, that leaves Rubio to his current role — a late-game substitute for a team in need of goal, along with the occasional appearance in the starting lineup to spell Dwyer.
Either way, the job doesn’t change.
“As I striker, when you are new, you need to show something to make a difference, and that’s scoring goals,” Rubio said. “But you can’t try to be crazy. It has to come when you’re in the right position.”