Kansas City, Missouri (January 22, 2016)– For Sporting KC player’s final media session before heading for their first pre-season stint in Tuscon, Arizona, there was a lot of excitement about the team heading into the 2017 season. On top of general optimism about just getting back to work again, there was plenty of excitement about the new additions to the team. All that, and more from the key veterans up the spine of the team.
Sporting KC Veterans Excited For 2017 Season
Manager, Peter Vermes’ excitement about the squad headed into the 2017 season was relatively reserved in his press conference on friday. For the players? It was a little less reserved. Of course, that’s to be expected. Most of the players were coming in to get physicals and a workout in before they headed to Tuscon for their first of two stints their in the pre-season.
The overall feel in the room was one of excitement though. New players meeting the veteran leaders for the first time, Daniel Salloi and Erik Palmer-Brown returning to the fold; it was all an exciting feel. The players echoed that excitement as they discussed the squad for next year. When asked about how he feels about the squad headed into pre-season, Roger Espinoza said this: “A lot of youth, a lot of young guys. You know, it kinda reminds me of that team in 2012. We were all young. A lot of excited guys. They want to do well, you can see it in their faces. It’s always great when you see those guys. Hopefully it goes well.”
Veteran Sporting KC and USMNT defender, Matt Besler echoed that sentiment: “There is always excitement on this day. We’ve been waiting for it since our season ended. It’s been a long offseason. There is changes every year. I just think everybody is looking forward to getting together, meeting everybody and getting to work.”
When asked, Espinoza said that this was definitely the most turnover in a squad he’s experienced. But he also hinted that the spine of the team being in-tact helps having them assimilate. “It does make it a lot easier. I remember early 2010, 2011, we changed formations, we changed everything. We didn’t have that, we had to do that on our own. Now we have an identity, and we know what we want. So the guys incorporate into that right away. To me it won’t be as difficult as when we changed everything.”
For Besler and Dom Dwyer there is just simple excitement at getting back on the field. Both players went through some “clean-up” surgery on their ankles. Vermes said they were playing through a lot of pain, and Dwyer confirmed that. “It was a big issue, probably for a year and a half I had been battling it. Previous off-season, it wasn’t quite time for it to get done. This offseason it just became time to get it done. Towards the end of the season I was really struggling.”
Dwyer was able to play through the pain for the most part though, even though it was difficult. “If you want to play and be on the field, (there are) certain things you have to do to sacrifice that. If it’s gonna hurt sometimes, then that’s just how it is,” Dwyer said. “I’m happy to be healthy, have my body right, and hopefully I can show you guys a full, healthy season.”
After scoring 28 goals in the last two seasons, the prospect of Dwyer being healthy for a full season has to have Sporting KC supporters salivating.
The spine of the 2017 squad looks to be mainly in-tact from the team over the last 3-4 seasons. That prospect, with a lot of potential breakout players, and the youth/speed combination on the flanks, Sporting KC feel like they are primed for a big run this season.
“Every year. Every year we’re a contender. No matter how we did the last year. We all know if we went past that game, we know the sky is the limit. Our goal is to get to the finals,” was Espinoza’s response to the question of whether or not they see themselves as a contender.
Ultimately, the veteran core of this team is ready to take the burden this year. Dwyer ended with this: “When I came here five or six years ago, that’s what I wanted to do, to put that responsibility on me. I thrive off that. If we lose, blame me. If we win, blame me. I don’t care.”
With a veteran core in the spine of the team ready to lead, and a whole lot of exciting talent out wide, Sporting KC will be a force in MLS for 2017. How quickly they gel together, and how quickly they get production from the newer additions will be the determining factor this season.
Other Notable Quotes:
Dom Dwyer on potential national team call-up now that Jurgen is gone, Bruce is in?
“I don’t want to get on that too much. I’m focused on playing football. I’m trying to get fit now, and focus on performing for my club. If the other things come, then that’d be a huge honor. I’ve heard nothing but good things from our guys who are on the national team, and some of the guys who are back on it now, like benny. That’s very exciting for them, and if I have a chance to join them, then that would be fantastic.”
Roger Espinoza on whether or not the speed/youth addition was necessary:
“Yeah, I do feel like it was. I think the coaches saw it. In years past we’ve always had that. I even thought we had it last year, and it just didn’t end well for us. Stuff changes when you don’t do as good.”
Espinoza on players he sees as having breakout season potential:
“A lot of the guys. In 2011, 2012, we all had breakout years. I think a lot of the young guys, Saad (Abdul-Salaam), Jimmy (Medranda), Dom is always having a breakout season, Diego (Rubio) is coming back, EPB (Erik Palmer-Brown) a young guy coming back, Kevin Ellis.”
Besler on whether this season could be a return of the “Hallmark Sporting Defense”:
“Yeah, that’s the plan”