Sporting Kansas City have a new identity and lots of new faces, but manager Peter Vermes likes what he’s seen so far in training from the holdovers from the Wizards era.
“It’s nice to see the guys from last year start off where they left off [in 2010],” Vermes said in a teleconference call from a preseason stop in Phoenix. “They know we’re playing and approaching the game with sort of the same [tactical] tendencies, and they’ve shown it on the field.”
Vermes was pleased with attacker Kai Kamara in particular, whom the coach described as someone who “really understands what we want and expect from him on the field, and how we want him to play that position.”
“I’ve been absolutely impressed with his approach from the first day of camp all the way through,” Vermes noted.
While the returnees, including Kamara, have the luxury of knowing Vermes’ preferred system – a unique 4-3-3 with inverted attacking fullbacks – the new faces are learning on the fly.
Those newcomers include Mexican forward Omar Bravo, the franchise’s second-ever Designated Player after Argentine Claudio Lopez, and trialist Kevin Ellis, a right back who could potentially sign as a Home Grown player.
[inline_node:327341]“[Bravo] is a pleasure to have on the team,” said Vermes. “He’s a very committed guy who’s here for the right reasons. He shows up every day. He’s getting to know the guys more, and you can see he has a humble way of mentoring people, which I think is important.”
Ellis, who played with the Wizards Juniors and Barton Community College, has also made a good impression. Described as fast and athletic, Ellis, like many fullbacks, began playing as a forward and was gradually moved to the back line.
“He’s definitely going to be a fullback at the MLS level,” Vermes said. “He’s been holding his own and has the right attitude. You can see he’s matured in the last year.”
Asked whether or not the team plans on signing Ellis as a Home Grown player, Vermes was non-committal.
“I don’t want to say whether or not I’m going to sign him yet,” the coach stated. “He’s looked good, but we’re early in the preseason and we haven’t made any decisions yet.”
Ellis – whether signed this preseason or not – could be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting players from the Sporting academy.
“We’re very committed to finding our own talent and developing our own thing here in this market,” Vermes said. “We have to be honest about it because sometimes [players] want to go to other places – New York and LA, obviously – and so we’ll do our own thing here.”
Sporting are currently without attacker Ryan Smith, who’s rehabbing an injury and is still in Kansas City for another seven to 10 days. On the opposite end of the fitness spectrum is second-year man Teal Bunbury, who Vermes described as “having a high level of form” thanks to his experience with the Generation adidas group during the offseason and the US national team in January.
Bunbury is one of 37 players in camp with Sporting at the moment. Vermes expects to make several cuts after their preseason scrimmage against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, and another round on Feb. 15. But he’s willing to postpone a decision on certain players if necessary.
“I don’t want to sign 30 players just to have the number,” Vermes said. “If we need to take a guy for a few extra days, we will. If, on the other hand, there are guys who aren’t progressing, we’ll make a decision if we need to.”