KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Almost four months after arriving in Kansas City, Sunil Chhetri is finally getting his chance to shine.
Against Manchester United, no less.
Manager Peter Vermes confirmed this week that Chhetri, who has yet to make the 18-man roster since joining the Kansas City Wizards in late March, will see some playing time against the Red Devils on Sunday.
“I’m excited,” Chettri said, “not personally, but for the whole team, for the whole of Kansas City and for the whole of America because Man. United is one of the best in the world. It is going to be a great experience for all of us. I just want to grab my opportunity and go in there and play.”
It’s an opportunity Chhetri has been waiting for since making his only competitive appearance for Kansas City on April 13, when he played the first half of a US Open Cup game against the Colorado Rapids.
Needless to say, the Indian striker’s move to MLS hasn’t exactly gone to plan since then. Chhetri has struggled to adapt to the pace and physicality of the game in the United States. It’s a frustrating turn of events for the star of the Indian National Team.
“There are times when I think it’s just not happening, and I should move on and think of different alternatives,” Chhetri said. “But then it’s a kind of challenge for me. Everyone looks up to me in my country, and there is a point to prove for myself. I came here to learn, and I think I can learn more over here. That really motivates me.”
Without any game time for such an extended period, it’s safe to say Chhetri should be sufficiently motivated to show the Wizards and their fans what they’ve been missing over the season’s first four months.
Manager Peter Vermes doesn’t dispute that the diminutive striker possesses a powerful shot and good offensive instincts. For now though, the technical staff is still trying to help Chhetri refine his contributions on the defensive side of the ball and deal with larger, more powerful players while building the physical level required to accomplish that.
“Let’s face it, the reason why he’s here is because he wants to play,” Vermes said. “There is a frustration level when he doesn’t get to play every week. I will say that he’s handled it pretty well. I know that there are some weeks where he is more up and others when he is a little down. That’s part of being a player.”
This week at least Chhetri has no choice to be up. He said hoped a strong performance could help continue building trust between himself, the coaching staff and his teammates.
“It’s been three months that I have been here working a lot and trying to understand the kind of game we play in Kansas City,” he said. “It’s been difficult because I am not used to all the things that happen over here, but I am trying to do my best to acclimatize.”