K.C. rookies Pore, Sealy start together
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - In the 10th year of Major League Soccer, it may seem strange to see two rookies pairing as a team's starting strike partnership.
But when Davy Arnaud went sick last week, and with Josh Wolff training with the U.S. national team in preparation for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Kansas City Wizards coach Bob Gansler chose to team his top two choices from the 2005 MLS SuperDraft up front against the Colorado Rapids on Monday.
The results were mixed in the resulting 2-1 loss, but the experience was undeniably a progression for both potential-laden players as Ryan Pore assisted on Chris Klein's eighth-minute goal and Scott Sealy continued to show improvement in his play up top.
"Ryan Pore laid that ball back to Kleiny, and he had a couple other situations where he didn't get his nerve up to shoot when he should have. You don't lead the country in scoring by being hesitant in those situations - it's uncharacteristic," said Gansler of Pore, who led the nation in scoring in his junior year at Tulsa University. "But it was another step in his education, and I'm glad he got the assist. Hopefully he's better in the next situations."
"I'm struggling with my confidence out there a little," said Pore. "I had a couple of chances and just couldn't pull the trigger. I look at it and try and learn from it."
Pore's start was his second of the season, following his first in New England on June 4, but it was Sealy's eighth start of the season in the 14 games he has played in.
"What Scotty did better is he's got to be a guarantee that when the ball is played into him, he's going to hold it. Now we can push people up and [attack]. He's got the game, and he's got the body, this is (what he does), and he's been a little hesitant on that," said Gansler. "But I thought he did much better on that in this game, and that's why we kept him in there for 90 [minutes].
"He needs to get a couple more possibilities at goal, put himself in better positions. He didn't have any at all in the first half, did have a couple in the second half. So he needs to get two or three in both halves, and then we'd be totally pleased. It was a step forward for him for sure. With Josh gone, we need somebody to hold up the ball, and Scotty helped us with that."
For both the 24-year-old Sealy and the 21-year-old Pore, the adjustment to the professional ranks has been mostly mental. And that's part of Sealy's situation when he has large, skilled and determined defenders on his backside while he is trying to hold possession.
"Without a doubt, [the physicality can be mental.) The [Atlantic Coast Conference, home to Sealy's college side, Wake Forest University] can brag all they want about them being the best college conference in the country, and they could very well be, but there are not too many Robin Frasers [of the Columbus Crew] climbing up your tailpipe [there]," Gansler said.
"That was the game before, especially Robin, but also [Crew back Chad] Marshall, they had our guys up top for lunch. So this was an improvement. And you had two tough physical defenders [in Colorado] in [Nat] Borchers and [Mike] Petke, and Scotty, you could see, it was a step up."
The Trinidad and Tobago native knows his role is important to his team's success.
"It's a big challenge. [Gansler] looks to me to hold up the ball, which allows the other guys to come up and get more numbers in the attack," said Sealy. "Every game I've got to be strong. Some days are better than some, but that's my challenge."
Monday's match was the first time Pore and Sealy had seen first-team action together this season, and with Wolff absent, it likely won't be the last. Next time out, though, the two know what they need to work on.
"[We need to improve our] work in combination - we didn't find each other very often. That just takes time getting used to playing with each other. I don't think we've had that time so far," said Pore. "Once we get out here and play a little bit more together things will be fine."
The Wizards are wanting to put together a strong second-half to the season, and Sealy and Pore will be integral parts to the start of a second half surge as they team with Arnaud to provide offensive punch in the final third.
"Your name could be called whenever; these guys [Sealy and Arnaud] could get hurt in the first half. Your mentality has to be to be ready for anything and be willing to go out there and help your team get wins," Pore said. "You've got to look at yourself in the mirror and [ask] what you provide to the team and go out there and do your best."
And, despite an Internet rumor, there are no immediate plans to augment the attack as the international transfer window opens soon. The stories of 30-year-old Lithuanian forward Edgaras Jankauskas joining the Wizards from FC Porto are just that, according to Kansas City general manager Curt Johnson.
"It's a rumor. We are always looking to get better, but in that case it is certainly a rumor," he said.
The dismissal doesn't mean, however, that the Wizards brass will stand pat after a sluggish first-half of the season.
"We had one of our poorer performances on Monday night," said a disappointed Johnson. "We've got 99 percent the same team as we had last year, and we've got to keep looking to get better because that performance, as well as the month of June, was not good enough.
"It's an ongoing process, but I'm confident that the group that we've got can pull themselves out of it. They certainly were excellent last year. The guys on the field, the coaching staff, the general manager, all of us, [need to look to get better]. We have the makeup to do what we want to do, which is get to another championship game. But it hasn't been there as of yet."
Although Jankauskas will not be moving to Kansas City, expect changes in one way or another to come on the field if the Wizards continue their unsatisfactory run of play.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.