Change of scenery does Sporting KC's Sinovic good
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A week-and-a-half into the 2011 season, Seth Sinovic found himself out of job, wondering where his next opportunity would come from.
Sinovic started 18 games for New England as a rookie left back in 2010 after being drafted in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft out of Creighton, but that didn’t keep Revolution manager Steve Nicol from deciding he was surplus to requirements just days after the season kicked off.
On May 31, the Revs waived Sinovic, a 160-word press release officially announcing the end of his short tenure in Boston.
“It was really stressful,” Sinovic said. “You don’t really know what’s going to happen. You leave a lot of good friends, a lot of good teammates. At the same time, you just have to stay positive. That’s what I tried to do.”
A little more than four months later, that approach has paid off handsomely.
Sinovic eventually found a place in Kansas City — his hometown, no less — a little more than a month after New England jettisoned him and was deployed at left back just weeks after his arrival by manager Peter Vermes.
When Roger Espinoza left for the Gold Cup in June, Sinovic moved into the lineup for good and hasn’t looked back. He’s started nine games in league play, facilitating Espinoza’s move into a midfield role, and helped Sporting to a 5-1-3 record in those matches despite fighting through a hamstring strain that kept him out for four games in July.
For both Sinovic and Sporting, the match was simply a matter of timing and circumstance.
“We liked him coming out of college,” Vermes said. “We were actually interested in picking him up at the time, but he got taken by New England. There was nothing we could do at that point. I was kind of surprised when they released him, but it was great for us.”
And as well as the move has worked out for Sporting, it suited the 24-year-old defender even better. His return to Kansas City reunited him with a sizeable contingent of family and friends — Sinovic grew up in nearby Leawood, Kan. — as well as center back Matt Besler, with whom he played club soccer since second grade.
“Off the field, it made it a lot easier,” Sinovic said. “I remember before I was coming on trial here, I was calling [Besler] to get some advice; how training sessions were and how to prepare. On the field, I’ve been playing with him since I was six or seven years old, so there is still that familiarity with him. It’s kind of like a sixth sense between us.”
Their play together has been a testament to that.
Sporting have allowed just eight goals when the duo suits up next to each other on the left side of the back line and didn’t lose a game until Seattle’s late comeback last Saturday broke the team’s 14-game unbeaten streak.
“He makes it pretty easy,” Besler said. “I think he just reads the game really well. You look at him and he’s not going to blow you away with his athletic ability. But he very rarely gets beaten. He’s always in a good spot.”
That positioning allows Sinovic to make the simple play when others might be forced to resort to the spectacular.
He specializes in anticipating and intercepting balls played into wide areas and has become adept at pushing high up the field to dispossess and harry the opposing team in dangerous areas. Maybe more importantly, Sinovic is rarely forced to boot the ball aimlessly when a simple pass will allow SKC to reset the formation or embark on the counterattack.
“The best way to describe him for me is as a ‘steady Eddy,’” Vermes said. “He’s never really unbelievable — not to say he isn’t a good player. He’s never going to kill it, but he’s never going to have a bad game. He’s a guy that comes out and gives you a very solid performance week after week. You can count on it.”
But with all the focus on Sinovic’s reliability as a defender, it can be easy to forget how well he’s combined with Omar Bravo on the left flank in an attacking role. The first taste of that relationship came during a 5-0 shellacking of New England in a US Open Cup qualifier in which the duo absolutely tore the Revs' right side to shreds.
“In New England, [going forward] wasn’t something that was encouraged,” Sinovic said. “It was more sit in and find your spots. With this team, it’s all about going forward and putting the pressure on. It gives me the opportunity to show my ability as far as being able to get up and down the line. It’s been a good fit.”
And to have that fit come along in the city he grew up? That’s just surplus to requirements.
“It’s something a lot of guys want to do; play in front of their hometown crowd,” Sinovic said. “I couldn’t be happier to be here.”