He was Sporting Kansas City's most durable player and earned his first call-up to the US national team's January camp, but 2014 can't be over soon enough for Seth Sinovic.
“I base a lot of my performance on how the team does,” the veteran left back told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “It was very disappointing in that aspect. We had high goals, high expectations, and we came up short on pretty much everything.”
Sporting, beset by injuries and international absences all year long, came up without silverware this year for the first time since 2011. The 2013 MLS Cup champs were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Knockout Game of the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T, the quarterfinals of the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League, the 2014-15 CCL group stage and the round of 16 in the US Open Cup.
Sinovic didn't come up short on playing time, though. He led all Sporting players – the whole roster, not only outfield players – with 3,475 minutes across all competitions, including 38 full-90 outings.
“He's a guy who wants to be on the field,” manager and technical director Peter Vermes said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “He doesn't want to be off the field. I think he's got a pretty good pain tolerance. That all helps him immensely.”
Sinovic's durability proved especially valuable when Sporting's central defense was ravaged by injury and absence, forcing Kevin Ellis – the top backup at both fullback spots after Josh Gardner's early-season waiver – into a center back's role.
“We have an unbelievable training staff, and I tried to take advantage of them as much as possible,” Sinovic said. “They did a great job of helping me with the little nicks that I had, to keep them from turning into huge injuries. So I think I did pretty well from that aspect, but I don't think there was any added pressure. I knew we had a lot of depth.”
After that grueling year, Sinovic could be forgiven any relief for extra time to rest because of the early playoff exit – especially if US coach Jurgen Klinsmann calls him into a second straight January camp.
He'd rather be chasing another MLS Cup right now, though.
“You can play both sides of it,” he said. “You could say you come in a little bit sharper, having played more recently. But it's definitely not the situation I wanted at the end. I definitely wanted to try and repeat this year, and obviously it was a very disappointing year from that aspect.”
This offseason will also bring another expansion draft, with New York City FC and Orlando City SC both joining the league in 2015 – and the last time that happened, between the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Sinovic found himself drafted away by Montreal before a trade brought him back to his hometown.
He wants to stay in Kansas City, he said, but he's not going to worry about the possibility of being left unprotected again.
“That's not really something I can control at this point,” he said. “I was extremely stressed out last expansion draft, just because I was a little bit newer to the league and didn't know what to expect. I think I let that bother me a little too much, and this year I'm going to control what I can control. I'm going to be working really hard in the offseason, getting ready for next year, and hopefully that means here in Kansas City.”
There's hometown pride in that statement – but that's not the only reason Sinovic wants to be back at Sporting Park next year.
“It's a great club, great organization, great coaching staff,” he said. “Everything about it – it's a great place to be. It's a team I think I can succeed with and a team that has the potential to be successful for years to come. That's something I definitely want to be a part of.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.