The Full 90

Sporting KC training camp: Interview with Peter Vermes

After missing yesterday's camp, I was able to get back out and watch Sporting Kansas City run through a few training drills, a few touch games and some basic shooting practice today.

In other words, I saw them play and wasn't able to glean a whole lot from practice itself. But I did get to talk to head coach Peter Vermes about the draft class, Ryan Smith, Omar Bravo, rumors of a new "Wizard" on the wing and more about that max-contract European player we've heard so little about. Or is it players, we've heard so little about to date? Hmmmmm.

The Basics:

The majority of camp today was devoted to separating the team into three grids on the field and having them play touch and control games. After, small groups broke out with the attacking players shooting on goal and the defenders either playing keep away or stretching.

Two Thoughts:

• Adda Djeziri is the most impressive of the trialists. He's smooth on the ball and quick with it at his feet. Head coach Peter Vermes sees him as a different sort of winger than Smith, as Djeziri -- also a left-sided winger -- brings the element of size (he's 6'3") and could be a chore for a fullback to mark.

• This was a really small moment, but I thought it was pretty telling. During one of the mini-games, trial defender Julio Cesar Santos was just not in the flow of the game. He drifted to the edges of the grid and just didn't seem calm. During a water break, both Roger Espinoza and Omar Bravo went over to him and spoke quietly in Spanish. As they headed toward the game, Bravo and Santos walked away together and Bravo motioned with his hands for Santos to "come in" to the game more. Santos listened and showed much better from that point forward.

Ok, now for the good stuff...

Peter Vermes was able to shed some light on many topics post practice. The good stuff is at the end.

What's different about this year, compared to last season? "From our testing ... it's amazing the improvement from last year to this year. I'm telling you it's incredible. Which tells me two things. One, the culture has changed, which was something huge for me last year. Second is, there's a strong buy-in. (The players) understand the style in which we play right now so that they get that they need a certain fitness level. It also tells me that they've taken it seriously enough to come back prepared (and we don't need to) focus so much on fitness during the preseason, but to focus on soccer. That gives us another leg up."

How have the new guys done so far? "One really, really positive thing is that our draft picks -- based on the way our team is -- I would say fitness-wise and (by) their athleticism they are the best class (we've brought to camp) all-in-all 1 through 6."
"The new guys (trial players) that are in, the great thing is, they have enough of a base that it will be easy for us to accelerate them to catch up with the rest of the guys. Which is good (because) we're not starting so low down to try to get those guys up there." "Last year, we brought in just good players. Now we've got specific players for positions that we need. We could really spend our time trying to find those guys. It's exciting cause we know if we can fit those pieces in, they'll be a big help to us."

Where is Ryan Smith? "Smith is here, he'll take two weeks working out with the training staff. We're trying to bring him along in a way so that he doesn't have to go through the whole preseason. So that he's healthy over the long-term." [Vermes said he had an ACL tear years ago when he was with Arsenal and that after 2010 was over, he had minor surgery to clean up that area.]

How does Omar Bravo fit the team? "Forget about where he'll fit. Let's just talk about him alone. Forget about where. It's doesn't matter. He's just a high-level player. He changes the way we look already. He gives us a different dimension on the field. Having the ability to play him in multiple positions is great, but just having him on the field is a huge advantage. The great thing is, we have some other players that we can really add to our team. I don't mean guys who could be a 2 or a 3 [he means on the depth chart], but guys that could be a 1, could be first-string guys. Competition is very important going into the season."

Adda Djeziri has been impressive, is he one of those guys? "Obviously first... preseason is long and a lot of things can happen. But he can bring a different dimension to the left-side. First he's good on the ball, but he's also a good soccer player. He knows where he needs to be defensively. He's 6'3," he's got a different type of body. He could be difficult for some guys to mark against just with his size alone."

What about the rumors of Ecuadorian Franklin Salas* being linked to the team? "We are working on trying to bring him to Arizona to come in and trial with us. We could be more closer than that, but as of right now, we're just trying to get him to join us in Phoenix."

*A little more on Salas. He's a 29-year-old Ecaudorian with over 200 appearances (and 46 goals) for LDU Quito in Ecuador. He's a wing forward and his nickname is Mago, which means, not kidding, "wizard." Or "magician."

What about the other trialists, Omar Colley, Daneil Cyrus and Sheldon Bateau? "Bateau and Cyrus both will join us on Sunday. We're still going back and forth on Colley, he's having issues on where he's traveling from."

Any update on the European attacking-midfielder that Robb Heineman tweeted about last week? Pay attention for the second part of his answer. "Not at the moment. That one (guy), we don't have enough yet but I will say we're getting close. I'm gonna give you more than (Heineman gave you), we actually have more than one. We have like three on the docket right now. And we're working with all three to see who we can grab a hold of and bring down (to Phoenix)."

Bam! How's that for awesome vague news?

Then, after discussing the upcoming games in the preseason, he dropped this: "The last two games (of preseason), which are New York and Chivas Guadalajara those are really setting us up for the first game of the season."

So, we know (sort of) when the team will play Chivas in Guadalajara: Right before they play Chivas USA on March 19. The details of this game (such as date and all that) are still being worked out.

I'm Just Sayin'...

"Where's Jimmy (Conrad)? How about (Josh) Wolff? Wow, you guys got rid of all the good players."

Wow. This was, I believe, a media member asking a PR guy who to talk too. I can't believe media members could be this clueless. No wonder most of the other bloggers/fans looked down their nose at me when I first started this blog last year, such a poor representation of the mass media.