What adjustment period? Sporting KC striker Claudio Bieler settling in just fine
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In some small ways, Claudio Bieler is still settling into his MLS career.
Sporting Kansas City's new striker hasn't yet moved out of his hotel room into more permanent digs. In interviews, he tends toward long answers with few breaks for his translator. And, as of Friday, he hasn't seen just how hard a sold-out Sporting Park can rock.
The goals, however, have come right away. Sporting's Designated Player has that down already, finding the net twice in as many games.
That's to his new club's credit, Bieler said.
“Ever since day one, the coaching staff has been first-class, as well as the players,” he said on Thursday. “When you have surroundings like that, you don't have anything to worry about, just what goes on on the field. You can come in and produce, and that's what I did.”
A couple of things still bother him, though.
One is being referred to as “Ecuadorian,” even though he holds dual citizenship between that country and his native Argentina.
“I've seen some Web pages that call me 'Ecuadorian,'” he said. “I consider myself Argentinian through and through.”
The second and larger issue for him is Sporting's 1-1-0 record going into Saturday's match against the winless Fire.
“On a personal level, it's great that I scored two goals in the first two games,” said Bieler, who converted C.J. Sapong's flick-on into Sporting's only goal in last weekend's 2-1 loss at Toronto. “But the important thing is to win. If we're not winning, why does it matter if I'm scoring or not? I want the team to win. If the team is winning, I don't care who scores. I'm happy.”
Sporting insist on that team-first approach from all their players, though they're glad the goals have come so quickly for Bieler.
Not surprised, though.
“I saw the guy six years ago,” manager Peter Vermes said on Tuesday at the team's weekly news conference. “The qualities I saw then are more mature today than they were then. He's a finisher. When he read that flick, I would tell you that inside, I was 95 percent sure that guy was going to score. There was no doubt that the ball was going to be on frame. He just finds those areas.”
Vermes first scouted those qualities when Bieler was playing for Chilean side Colo-Colo.
“He didn't start,” Vermes said. “I was like, 'Oh, you've got to be kidding me.' Then his team went down a man, and I thought, 'They're not going to bring a forward in.' They did. Him. And he scored with his team a man down. And it was a finisher's goal.”
Bieler's biggest adjustment, Vermes said, was in learning his responsibilities off the ball.
“He's picked that up pretty quickly,” Vermes said. “I would say he's been good at that. He still has room to grow, but he's picked it up quickly.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.