KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Sporting Kansas City brought in Diego Rubio as a Young Designated Player in early March, they got a Chilean international with experience in Spain's second division and Portugal's top flight.
But if anyone expected the 22-year-old forward to step right in as an immediate replacement for the departed Krisztian Nemeth – that's not the way Sporting do things, manager Peter Vermes said, and not what they expect out of Rubio during his loan term from Spanish side Real Valladolid.
“Everybody has these ideas,” Vermes told reporters after Wednesday morning's training session. “Listen, that player isn't here any more. I don't think that way. I just don't think that way. We're not here to replace anybody. We're here to put a team together, and right now we wanted to add another forward. Thus far, he's done well.
“Whether he's going to be here at the end of the loan, I don't know yet.”
Rubio's loan term runs through the end of June, by which time Sporting must decide whether to extend his time in Kansas City. He likes the club and the city, he told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday – but he expected to, coming in.
“I liked the interest they showed to me, to come here,” he said. “I know a lot of players, and they told me MLS is amazing and that Sporting KC was one of the best clubs here.”
So far, he has 78 minutes in three appearances, with his lone start in a 2-1 home loss to the Colorado Rapids on April 13.
“He's done well, when he's come in,” Vermes said. “He's given an injection to the team when he comes on the field. I thought the game that he started at home, I thought he was a little too hungry to score, and it kind of took him out of his game a little bit. Every time he comes in, I think he gets a little more used to what we're trying to do.
“These other games, he's come in in a situation where we're trying to claw back into a game, and it's a little bit more difficult. The game is different.”
Rubio came close to opening his account several times in his start against the Rapids, pushing one shot just wide and driving another off the crossbar from a tight angle.
“He was out of his rhythm,” Vermes said. “He was trying to do too much, where maybe he should have tried to play the ball a little earlier to somebody, or he was trying to shoot when he should have made the pass to get it back in a better area, to have a better shot. Just a little too hungry to go score, and it got him out of his game.”
Team success is his main concern, Rubio said – and Sporting are in need of some, having dropped two in a row going into this weekend's match at San Jose (Sunday, 3:30 pm ET, ESPN) – but he does want to contribute on the scoresheet as well.
“For a forward, that's so important to score a goal,” he said. “But I always say that I need to work, I need to give everything. I prefer that the team wins and that I score, of course. A striker needs to score in order to feel more confident. I think it's really important to score that first goal.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.