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Nuno Andre Coelho addition means competition for Sporting KC back line

Photo by Casey Sapio/USA Today Sports
Photo by Casey Sapio/USA Today Sports

Though Sporting Kansas City’s squad, and especially its back line, features a returning class of players that have been with the club for quite some time, the team might make one key change in 2016.

Kansas City’s captain and centerback Matt Besler may have a new partner on the back line with the addition of Portuguese centerback Nuno Andre Coelho.

For Besler, the partnership may mean making some adjustments. Coelho, Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said, is more of a distributing centerback who shares some of the skill set of Besler.

In the past, Besler has played for Sporting KC alongside physical presences like Aurelien Collin, who was traded last offseason to Orlando City SC, and Ike Opara, who is still with the club and will compete with Coelho for the spot.

The absence of the overbearing type of physical presence at the back — something the team got used to over the last few seasons, Vermes said — won’t be a problem for the 2016 team.

“The more guys you can get on the field that can play, the better it is for your team,” Vermes said. “Ultimately, what you want to do is you want to get the best soccer players on the field that you can in any system.”

The 29-year-old Besler said he has plenty of experience playing with different types of centerbacks. The partnerships he has created with several players on the U.S. Men’s National Team, he pointed out, prepares him for the slight change with Sporting KC.

“I┬ájust look at (Coelho) as another player that I get to play with and partner with,” Besler said. “And we’re doing our best to get a good understanding with each other.”

For Opara, time on the field is a precious thing. However, he doesn’t perceive a battle between him and Coehlo for the starting spot alongside Besler.

“For me, the mindset is whenever I play is whenever I play or how much I play,” Opara said. “I just want to do well. We’ll get our fair share of games, everyone included.”

In 2015, Opara was an early standout before suffering an injury against Real Salt Lake on April 11. That injury kept him out of the remainder of the season. Although the past two seasons suggest he is somewhat injury-prone, Opara said he is keeping the same mentality this season: to go all out in the playing time he has as opposed to shying away from contact to avoid injury.

The primary selection of centerbacks for Kansas City includes Besler, Coelho and Opara, while depth players include 24-year-old homegrown Kevin Ellis and versatile Kenyan international Lawrence Olum. Sporting KC will depend on some depth this season with the CONCACAF Champions League added to the schedule.

Coelho said he welcomes the opportunity to compete with Opara. Since joining Sporting KC, he has been pleased with his experience and is eager to play.

“It’s really amazing to be here,” Coelho said. “I’ve never played here in the U.S. and it’s really amazing, the conditions, the staff and the players.

“(On the field,) I get in very good positions. I can bring something to the team.”

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