Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes wanted to make two things perfectly clear as his team wrapped up its first week of preseason training on Friday.
The first, and least surprising thing, is that passionate midfielder Davy Arnaud will be the team’s captain for the second consecutive season. The second, and most important thing, is that no major roster moves will be made until the team settles in Phoenix, Ariz., for its month-long training camp next week.
So what the heck was the purpose of the first week, which the team spent indoors at the Chiefs indoor practice facility?
“It was all about acclimation and getting back into the mode of playing every day,” Vermes said. “It was also about the testing we did, which gave us a baseline of where they are (physically).”
By all accounts, this year’s group – which is still smarting after a disappointing 11-13-6 2010 season – has come to camp in pretty good shape.
“I’d say 98 percent of the guys came back in good condition,” Arnaud said. “It looks like everybody took offseason conditioning seriously, which is good because now we can focus on other things.”
Good thing these guys are in shape, Vermes said, because after a week of drills and conditioning, things are about to pick up a notch.
“We’ll have double sessions starting Tuesday, so the workload and intensity will kick up,” Vermes said. “That’s when we’ll be evaluating the players.”
They’ll do that primarily in four games scheduled to be played within an 11-day period once they arrive in Phoenix on Monday. In addition to several holdovers, Vermes said Sporting KC will head to Phoenix with eight trial players – all with hopes of making the final 30-man roster – though more will come through camp.
“There’s a little bit of a revolving door down there,” Vermes said. “As we let one go, we bring another one right in.”
A few trial players have already caught Vermes’ eye. Among them are:
*Adda Djeziri, 22, a 6-foot-3 left winger who drew raves.
“I like his size, technical ability on the ball, and his awareness is good,” Vermes said. “He’s got a different makeup.”
*Calum Butcher, 19, a 6-foot-1 central defender who Vermes says is “very clean on the ball and technically aware.”
*Júlio César Santos, 32, a 6-foot-1 central defender that Vermes was high on entering camp but still needs to evaluate.
It’s not a coincidence that two of the three are central defenders, a position that was shaky at times last year for the team formerly known as the Wizards.
“It will be two or three weeks before we really start narrowing things down at that position,” Vermes said. “We’re going to take our time and make sure we pick the best guys.”
One player who entered camp on a mission was midfielder Jack Jewsbury.
After starting 20-plus games for Sporting KC in each of the previous three years, Jewsbury, 29, saw little action in the second half of last season as Vermes settled on other players at his position.
However, Jewsbury is doing all he can to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“I was disappointed in the way the second half of the season went for me, not being in the starting lineup,” Jewsbury said. “I’m going to fight everyday and push guys here.”
Jewsbury says he also wanted to let the younger guys know what camp is going to be like by his tough and enthused play early in camp.
And Vermes has noticed.
“He’s doing well,” he said. “All of our foundation guys have all come back at a very, very high level.”