Bieler says Sporting's high pressure is "natural" fit for him
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Claudio Bieler knows he's going to be counted on to rack up goals next season for Sporting Kansas City.
With his 20 tallies in 34 matches this year for Ecuadoran power LDU Quito, and SKC's struggles to score in 2012, it's not hard to see why Sporting made the 28-year-old striker the fourth Designated Player in club history.
But there's more to Bieler's skill set than his knack for finding the net, and that's what put the native of Argentina (who also holds Ecuadorian citizenship) high on Sporting KC's wish list.
Yes, he'll be expected to beef up an attack that was tied for 12th in Major League Soccer during 2012 with 42 goals. But he'll also be expected to contribute to a high-pressure, 11-man defensive scheme that was MLS' stingiest this past season.
"We’re a team that’s based on team-first mentality," assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin said at Tuesday’s press conference to announce the signing. "We bring in players that we feel are going to fit within the system of play that we have. Claudio, while he has creative moments, one of the biggest attributes that we recognized in him, is that he’s a guy that works for the team. As much as we talk about his goal scoring record, one of his biggest strengths is his ability to work defensively to help recover the ball."
Bieler, speaking through a translator, said he's no stranger to that kind of game.
"It's natural to me," he said. "I've played that role before, with LDU Quito when we won the Copa Libertadores [in 2008]. We played the exact same style then, and also in the  Recopa Sudamericana. I'm used to it. I'm ready to deliver. It won't be an issue.
His stints with four Argentine clubs, Bieler added, have prepared him for MLS' overall style of play as well.
"For me, this league reminds me of the Argentinian league: very physical, very fast-paced," he said. "Not so much the Ecuadorian league, where players will seek to avoid contact. I'm prepped. I've been in this environment before. Physicality is not going to be an issue for me."
And while Bieler's acquisition means increased competition for center forwards C.J. Sapong and Teal Bunbury, Zavagnin said they both remain firmly in Sporting's plans for 2013 – especially with the team involved in three separate competitions next year.
"When you look at guys like Teal Bunbury, C.J. Sapong, it’s not like we’re going to be able to bring in players that are athletically more superior," Zavagnin said. "These guys we’re talking about are world class athletes. Claudio offers a little bit different characteristics. He’s a little bit more mature in and around the box, certainly in age he is. He can help these guys come along."
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.