Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By TATE STEINLAGE
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Claudio Bieler’s improved fitness has caught the eye of his manager.
The Argentine forward for Sporting Kansas City scored 11 goals and four assists in 31 games but was a substitute down the final stretch of the season. Instead of pouting though, the Designated Player has taken the personal disappointment in stride as he prepares for the 2014 Major League Soccer season.
“He’s been very impressive,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes told SBI. “First of all, if you measure his fitness level that he came in last year to this year, it’s difficult to measure. It’s just incredible the change. I think that goes on both sides; he understands our league and what’s necessary on our team. He’s a professional and he gets it. He’s worked very hard in the offseason. He’s at a place that’s fantastic for the team. He’s very motivated, so it’s excellent for the team at the moment.”
The 29-year-old forward has already scored one goal and assisted on another in Sporting KC’s preseason scrimmages so far this month against the Portland Timbers and North American Soccer League club Indy Eleven.
Here are some more notes from Sporting KC training camp:
JOSEPH WAITING FOR DIAGNOSIS
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Peterson Joseph was absent from training Tuesday as the team prepares for a trip to Orlando, Fla. for the second stint of preseason play.
The 23-year-old Haitian has been held from preseason workouts and has not seen action since collapsing at practice last October. To make matters worse, Sporting KC and medical personnel have yet to hone in on a diagnosis.
“He’s in a predicament,” Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes said. “He’s got a health issue and we’re still trying to deal with what it actually truly is.
“I don’t want to go too deep into it right now because we’re still waiting on some tests, but he’s got a health issue and we aren’t going to take any chances with his health. So, until that’s sorted out, he won’t be practicing with us until we get a clearance from the doctors.”
Joseph, who appeared in 23 regular season games in 2013 for Sporting KC, has gone through what Vermes calls a “battery” of health tests in both New York and Kansas City since his injury.
And though the extent of his injury remains unknown, Vermes says Joseph is still “100 percent” apart of the roster.
VERMES TO ANNOUNCE CAPTAIN FROM BEFORE SEATTLE MATCH
When Jimmy Nielsen retired from Major League Soccer last December, he left behind two vacancies for his former club to fill.
The first didn’t take long.
Sporting KC quickly re-signed the club’s longest-tenured player in Eric Kronberg, and then brought in former Columbus Crew goalkeeper, and Kansas City native, Andy Gruenebaum.
However, the second still remains: who will take over as captain?
Vermes was reluctant to give anything away at training Tuesday, but the head man did confirm that a decision will likely be made from a “short list” a week before the club’s first match in Seattle, Wash. against the Sounders.
“I’m not going to go with names, but I would think that you would have an idea of some of the guys who would be on that list,” Vermes said.
“We have guys that we have interest in, of course,” Vermes said. “But those guys will come to the forefront, whoever that person is. It’s the same way I did it years ago, and I’ll continue to do it that way as well.”
Among those whom fans should expect to wear the armband is United States Men’s National Team standout Matt Besler. The local talent captained the club’s two home CONCACAF Champions League matches this past season.
Other notables who have captained Sporting KC before: goalkeeper Eric Kronberg, defender Aurelien Collin, and midfielder Paulo Nagamura.
VERMES ‘CONFIDENT’ TEAM WILL BE READY FOR BUSY YEAR
Accelerate the preseason.
That’s been the mantra of Vermes even before the team left for Tucson, Ariz. two weeks ago.
Sporting KC faces its most daunting schedule in club history. It begins with a trip to Seattle on March 8 and then a quick turnaround at home against Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Azul will be in midseason form, Sporting KC will not. So how do you accelerate a preseason so you can be ready for game action earlier than usual?
“You have to have a really, really good foundation,” Vermes said. “Your touch can be off and all those other things when you first get here, but if you don’t have a good foundation and fitness, it then leads to so many other problems. You miss not days but weeks because you’re hurt, and that’s usually from a lack of fitness. So, from that point of view, it’s been really good. The standard has been met by the majority of the group.
“Then we we were able to do other things in preseason, especially in the first phase, that we haven’t done in the past, because when you have a new group guys you got to spend so much time on different basic concepts around the way you want to play, and right now we don’t need to do that because we have such continuity on our roster from the last few years that we can accelerate.”
As a unit, Sporting KC returns 25 players from last year’s championship roster.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES:
- Sporting KC Under-18 Academy midfielder David Leichty signed a professional contract Monday to join USL PRO affiliate Oklahoma City Energy FC. The 18 year old is a Kansas City native.
- Sporting KC forward Soony Saad has been called up to join the Lebanon Men’s National Team for a friendly versus Pakistan on Feb. 19 and an AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Thailand on March 5. Saad will re-join Kansas City following the March 5 match.
- Sporting KC overcame an early goal last Friday in Tucson, Ariz. against NASL side Indy Eleven to cruise to a 3-1 victory.
- The second phase of Sporting KC’s preseason schedule will begin Friday when the team heads to Orlando, Fla. for the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic.
What do you think of these notes? Do you see Bieler building on his debut season? Think that Peterson could be out to start the season? Who do you see being appointed this season’s captain?
Share your thoughts below.