Healthy competition up top fuels SKC in preseason win
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – Another season, another bevy of talented forwards for Sporting Kansas City ranging from well seasoned to young and promising.
The center forward spot, in particular, is stocked. There is Saturday’s preseason game starter, C.J. Sapong, whose size makes him tough to defend with his back to the goal. There is the speedy Teal Bunbury, who didn’t play (toe sprain) but is expected to be in the starting XI when the season starts.
And then there are three players trying to push for a bigger role on the team who made their marks in Saturday’s 2-1 Sporting KC win over D.C. United: second-year pro Soony Saad, MLS veteran Jacob Peterson and top SuperDraft pick Dom Dwyer.
How the playing time will be spread around remains for Peter Vermes and staff to determine, but the luxury of a loaded depth chart is a good thing for the manager.
“You can never have too many attacking options,” Vermes said. “It’s a tough position, not only physically, but also when you’re in form. When somebody’s out of form, you need to have somebody else that can get back in form. Constantly those positions are the ones that are being acquired. Guys are moving on so you’ve got to make sure you keep some guys in the pipeline. That’s been one of our philosophies here going in since I took over.”
Sapong played 60 minutes as a starter Saturday. Saad, Peterson and Dwyer came on for 30 minutes as subs, and it took not two minutes for the three to team up for a goal.
After Dwyer forced a giveaway in the D.C. end, Peterson got the loose ball and drew United keeper Joe Willis out of his net before firing low. The rebound from his shot came out to Saad, who had no one between him and the goal for an easy score. With Graham Zusi opening the scoring for Sporting, Saad’s goal was the eventual winner.
“Year two is always a difficult year for players coming into the league,” Vermes said of Sapong, the MLS Rookie of the Year for 2011. “It’s one thing to get an idea of what the grind is like that first year and now it’s doing it year after year after year.”
Sapong looks at it as a chance for good competition in practice for playing time, and realizes that Bunbury could be gone for national team duty and the depth will be counted on, in that case.
“I feel like I’m always getting better and that’s all I can really ask for,” Sapong said.
Saad hopes to crack the starting lineup at some point. After joining Sporting KC late in the season last year, he’s in his first preseason with the team and is enjoying it.
“We all push each other to achieve a higher standard every single day,” Saad said. “The moment my jersey is called I’m ready to come in and give 150 percent.”