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Left back loaded for Sporting Kansas City

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It’s like someone describing a delectable meal that you can’t enjoy. Like hearing about a movie or TV show that you don’t have access to. Like your kids growing up, but you not being able to witness the daily victories.

Well, maybe not getting to witness or hear a lot about the daily developments during Sporting Kansas City’s preseason in Arizona is not quite as important as one’s children or whatever one may value most.

No matter, we long for more, so when news out of the ordinary comes to light, excitement stirs and the mind activates. Thus it was on Wednesday’s presser when Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes revealed his delight at the left back position. Yes, that left back position. The one left empty when Sporting declined contract options on Amadou Dia and Luis Martins shortly after the November playoff loss to Real Salt Lake. The void may become one of 2022’s bright spots.

Asked by The Blue Testament’s Thad Bell to provide an update on the progress of free agent signing Ben Sweat and Belgian import Logan Ndenbe, Vermes began, “Great mentality, both guys.” Mentality is always where it starts with Vermes and Sporting.

And for Sweat – recovering from an ACL injury suffered in game two of Austin FC’s debut season of 2021 – signing with Sporting KC is a new start in many ways for the 30-year-old. For Ndenbe, it’s a whole lot of new start for the recently turned 22-year-old. Their minds are processing overtime off the field and on.

“[To learn and have the] ability to understand and learn concepts within the way we play, it’s a lot,” said Vermes to a question from TBT’s Chad Smith, referring to all new players to the squad, the count of which currently sits at seven.

So far so good for the new left backs, a position that was occupied for years by the solid-if-unspectacular Seth Sinovic, he the man who fended off many newcomers at a critical position for KC’s 4-3-3. Not only are Sweat and Ndenbe of a different mold than Sinovic, they are different from one another.

“[There are] two differences [between the two guys], one, Ben is pretty tall for a left back; Logan is more compact as a player. He’s a pretty strong kid; he’s explosive,” Vermes stated, perhaps implying Ndenbe to be the more “explosive” of the two. “Both of them understand the position really well. Both of them – good defenders 1 v 1.”

In reference to all eleven players on the pitch, Vermes stated that “all have a role to play when we have the ball and when we don’t have the ball. When we have the ball, I look at it as everybody is an attacker… You have to be prepared to play within the way we play. you can’t be the black hole; [You can’t be the guy who when] the ball is moving around the field in a great rhythm and it comes to you and it dies there.”

The wide backs most often provide Sporting’s ball control attack with width up each flank as they search for openings in the opponents’ armor. The link below documents a case in Vermes’ point (just also happens to be one of the few times Dia saw the field). Notice Dia touches the ball three times in the buildup.

GOAL: Felipe Hernandez, Sporting Kansas City – 64th minute | MLSSoccer.com

Be assured that Vermes is giving Sweat and Ndenbe plenty of feedback, similar to what Sinovic enjoyed throughout his career, as they learn in preseason, especially Ndenbe who has only recently arrived at training camp.

For all the learning, Vermes’ next statement on the two was all the more impressive: “For me, this is probably the best tandem we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

That is quite a peek into the box of Sporting’s preseason. And kudos to Sporting Kansas City’s talent recruitment corps.

Bell’s question included, and I paraphrase: How close are each to being ready to play 90 on the starting day [February 27 at Atlanta United]?

“It’s about us building both guys into the team so that both guys feel comfortable with the team, and we feel comfortable with them,” Vermes replied. “And, also, physically, when asked to go and play, both can participate physically. I really feel comfortable with both guys, and I love their mentality and attitude.”

Vermes has always longed for more from the left back position than Sinovic’s ceiling or Martins on-and-off defense and capable, but limited attacking tools; the system, too, has always yearned for more.

Whether Sporting’s left back position is “loaded” with talent that produces results throughout the MLS season is yet to be seen. However, Sporting’s left back position is cocked and poised to release on MLS and to grace the pitch at Children’s Mercy Park.

Now, which of the two will become the most valued and win the bulk of the minutes? Hopefully, we get a look at both this Saturday as Sporting takes on Phoenix Rising in Arizona at 5:30pm Saturday.



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Gameday Guide: Your complete timeline for the Rapids’ Sunday doubleheader 

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2:00-5:00 P.M. Happy Hour at Hamburger Mary’s

Start your gameday off right at Hamburger Mary’s for drink specials and giveaways! Individuals have the option to bus from Hamburger Mary’s to DICK’S Sporting Goods Park at 4:00. The bus will return individuals to Hamburger Mary’s after the match. Purchase bus tickets here.

5:00 P.M. C38 Pride Tailgate

Join C38 for their Pride tailgate before making your way into the stadium! All are welcome to enjoy the pregame festivities and get hype to watch the Burgundy Boys with Colorado’s best supporters’ section.

Countdown to kickoff starts now! Welcome the Rapids to the pitch with hype videos, lineups and special Pride features.

6:00 PM Colorado Rapids vs Seattle Sounder FC Kickoff

Come on you Burgundy Boys!

9:10 PM Rapids 2 vs Tacoma Defiance Kickoff

Don’t head out just yet! Colorado’s MLS NEXT Pro side Rapids 2 will make their DICK’S Sporting Goods Park debut directly at the conclusion of the Rapids’ matchup with Seattle.





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2022 MLS season: Fire standing behind struggling goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina

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Gabriel Slonina has made his decision. He’s going with the United States men’s national team.

Slonina, 18, announced Friday on social media he is committing to the US over Poland. A dual national, Slonina was recently named to Poland’s roster for its upcoming UEFA Nations League matches but has chosen to cast his lot with the United States program. Poland clearly wanted Slonina badly, as shown by coach Czesław Michniewicz traveling to Chicago to meet with him and present him a jersey.

Those overtures were rejected, and Slonina explained why. Though he discussed his pride in his heritage and what it means to be Polish, Slonina said “my heart is American.”

“This country has given me and my family all the opportunities I could ask for,” Slonina posted. “It’s pushed me and supported me through good and bad. I understand the privilege of wearing the badge, and the only time I’ll put my head down is to kiss it. America is home and that’s who I’m going to represent.”

Because of his age, FIFA rules allow Slonina to play in three matches for a national team before being bound to a country, so it’s possible he could change his mind in the future.

Slonina is part of a crowded US goalkeeping picture that includes Manchester City’s Zack Steffen, the Revolution’s Matt Turner (who will join English club Arsenal this summer) and former Fire standout Sean Johnson, currently the captain of reigning MLS Cup champion New York City FC. Poland is also strong in net, led by Wojciech Szczęsny, the starter for Italian powerhouse Juventus.

But just because Slonina, who’s represented the US at youth levels, has made this decsion doesn’t mean all his major choices are complete. Slonina’s been linked with major European clubs, and with their transfer windows opening soon, the young goalie might be forced to decide between famous teams in the near future.

Slonina’s recent play for the Fire has raised questions about whether those outside factors have taken a toll. Last Saturday, Slonina’s late giveaway led to the Fire’s 2-1 loss to FC Cincinnati. Then on Wednesday against the Red Bulls, Slonina whiffed on an easy save for New York’s second goal, overcommitted on their stoppage-time equalizer and could’ve easily given away a penalty after contacting an opposing attacker in the Fire box.

After the Red Bulls match, coach Ezra Hendrickson was asked whether the external noise was affecting Slonina’s concentration.

“Maybe outside of the game but in the game I don’t think he’s thinking about all that stuff. He just happened to make some mistakes,” Hendrickson said. “You know, we all make mistakes as soccer players and it just happened to be that in that position of his, your mistakes are more dangerous, are more costly than someone missing a goal or something like that. But he’ll get out of it and we’ll make sure that he stays positive and stays confident.”

Perhaps that will be easier for Slonina with one major decision out of the way.





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Monarchs Spotlight: Tyrone Mondi – rsl.com

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Monarchs Spotlight: Tyrone Mondi  rsl.com



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