Brandon Wolak, KC SportsNation
The Sporting lost 2-1 to the lowly Philadelphia Union in one of the most uninspired matches I’ve ever witnessed at Sporting Park on Wednesday. The highs and lows of the season are starting to take its toll.
Things might just get worse before they get better.
Graham Zusi and Matt Besler are heading off for US Men’s team duty. Under the very best of circumstances for Sporting, the dynamic duo will return after the June 26 match against Germany (meaning that the US flamed-out during the group stage). But this could even end badly for the Sporting. Under the very worst of circumstances for Sporting, Zusi and Besler play so well in Brazil that they are snatched up by a European club after the World Cup.
It’s great for them to represent ‘Merica, but not having Besler and Zusi will hurt the Sporting. Without Zusi anchoring the defense could be disastrous for Sporting, especially since Aurelien Collin, Ike Opara, and Erik Palmer-Brown are all shelved with injuries. Lawrence Olum was also recently called into camp for the Kenyan national team. Peter Vermes looks like the best option at center back right now. I’m hoping that he goes all Ryan Giggs and tries the player-manager thing. In all seriousness, who is going to play center back right now? Seth Sinovic? Chance Myers? Kevin Ellis? Zusi’s absence will also hurt. There are very few players in MLS that have his box-to-box ability. I’m really going to miss watching him beast people up and down the pitch for 90 minutes. With that being said, there might be more minutes for Soony Saad in the coming weeks. If he and Dom Dwyer can light it up (and Benny Feilhaber can provide service on set pieces), then Sporting might keep afloat.
There is also a rumor going around that Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon are kicking the tires on Uri, and they would like to add him to their roster as early as this summer. While this is good for Uri — Sporting Lisbon will be in the Champions League — it is not so good for SKC. Uri has been a consistent bright spot over the last year, and he hasn’t even reached his ceiling yet. Until the salary cap is straightened out in this league, it will always be hard to retain top young talent, especially if said top talent is European to begin with. I won’t be surprised if Dom Dwyer gets snatched up before too long as well. So it goes.
With Zusi and Besler (and possibly Uri) being gone, some newbies are going to need to step up. I liked what I saw from Igor in his first start. He is fast, great at marking the ball, and has decent feet. His passing left a little bit to be desired (okay, a lot to be desired), but there is some definite potential there. I fully expect to see Alex Martinez, Jimmy Medranda, and Victor Munoz get some run over the next few matches.
I really didn’t want to write too much about Wednesday’s debacle, but there are a few things that need to be said. Sporting have been one of the best teams in the league for a few years now. They are nothing if not scrappy and physical. What took place against the Union was like nothing that I had ever witnessed — Sporting played with no heart and no passion. I’d hate to be on the wrong side of a Peter Vermes red-assing, but that is exactly where everyone but Dom Dwyer needs to be this week in training. Speaking of Dom Dwyer, it sure felt like his coronation on Wednesday. When he entered the game, the offense started to fire. As always, Dwyer created chances through pressuring the midfield and finding space through beautifully timed runs. I am a huge Claudio Bieler fan, but it is beginning to look like his days are numbered in Sporting blue. I’m still hoping that we could see Dwyer and Bieler stacked at some point, but that is looking less and less likely. It’s a shame though because Bieler could be a dominant scorer in this league if given the right system.
Sporting look to get off the snide this Sunday against the Chicago Fire. First touch is set for 2:00 PM at Toyota Park. Catch the game on KMCI-TV, and be sure to follow me @Baron_von_KC for the live Tweet.