K.C.'s Gansler happy, but not satisfied
It might be only preseason, but head coach Bob Gansler and his charges are already in form. Posting a 5-1-1 record and garnering four shutouts in seven outings against mixed competition proves that the new members of the Kansas City Wizards and the trialists have adapted to Gansler's methods and that the returnees haven't lost their touch during the winter months.
But what was Gansler able to suss out during two weeks in the Florida sun? To begin, the 2005 Wizards will have depth up front and in the midfield.
Adding depth to returning frontrunners Josh Wolff, Davy Arnaud and Justin Detter will be first-round draft pick Scott Sealy (still with the Trinidad & Tobago national team), second-round pick Ryan Pore and the surging Diego Walsh. This likely means trialist Edwin Ruiz will not be offered a spot among the 18 senior player limit on the 28-man roster, although this could change.
"I think most of [the young guys] will make their way as developmental players," said Gansler. "For Edwin it becomes extremely difficult [because of his age]. He needs to bump somebody off the roster. So far he hasn't shown that."
For Sealy, and to a lesser extent Pore, the jury is still out on their specific status on the team. Sealy was not in camp because of his international duty but is expected to join the team as it returns to Kansas City. Pore has had time to show his wares to the Wizards boss.
"Ryan Pore's got attributes, but he's got a lot to learn," said Gansler. "Hopefully, he is like Davy was three years ago and he'll have the development that Davy had in the three years since then. There's something there."
The depth is even more apparent in midfield. Newly re-signed Kerry Zavagnin bolsters the list of more-than-capable returnees that was critical to Kansas City's successes in 2004. Add in a healthy Preki (who could also see time up front) and newly-acquired Sasha Victorine and not much room is left for new additions.
Of the midfield apprentices, Jay Alberts finds himself in the same situation as forward Ruiz, but fourth-round draftee John Minagawa-Webster has made the most of his time.
"Of the young ones coming in, Webster's been the most pleasant surprise. The young man can play," Gansler said. "We played him wide left, wide right, we've thrown him at left wing back, right back. Versatility for a young guy is never a bad thing."
The bevy of options up front and in midfield could be stirred up by moving regular forward Davy Arnaud into an attacking midfield role or by coming at opponents' defenses with three forwards -- Wolff, Arnaud and Walsh -- a decision that would leave many Wizards armchair managers shocked.
"Arnaud could [be an attacking midfielder] because he's got the engine to do that either centrally or wide, but what's to say that we can't come with three forwards and then come with three midfielders?" Gansler said. "That's a possibility."
Walsh, used little last year, likes the idea but realizes nothing is certain.
"I think it would be great. I think I can attack, I can create. If I'm going to spend 60 percent of the time defending and 40 percent of the time attacking, it's not going to help me," he said. "There's just a lot of competition. All of the players on this team are great players and that's why we did so well last year."
In the back, the options thin out. Last season's regular and substitute backline is still intact, former A-leaguer Dustin Branan has been signed to a developmental contract and a few other candidates are in camp, but little has changed.
For now, though, Gansler seems satisfied with what he has seen. Still, he sounded a warning to his veterans and young players alike.
"Just because you're on the roster right now [doesn't mean you will stay]," Gansler said. "There are a couple of guys here, and there could very well be a few more people in the next couple of weeks and months, that we're going to look at. You can change that roster at any time."
When asked about the additional trialists who may arrive in time, Gansler did not budge.
"I have a couple of guys in mind, but to mention them now, whether they be foreign or domestic, would not serve us," the long-time Wizards coach said.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.