KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The US Open Cup final is still more than two weeks away, but Lawrence Olum is already feeling a sense of urgency.
With four starts in league play for Sporting Kansas City this season, Olum (above right) would appear to be the most experienced choice to take Aurélien Collin’s spot in central defense as Collin sits out the Aug. 8 final – Sporting’s first since its only Open Cup win in 2004 – on yellow-card suspension.
But if he’s to contend for a spot in the Starting XI against three-time defending champion Seattle, Olum will have to show himself start-ready after a groin strain that sidelined him for four MLS matches and the Open Cup semifinal. The best way to do that is with strong showings in Sporting’s upcoming international friendlies – Tuesday night against French Ligue 1 champion Montpelier and August 1 against English Premier League side Stoke.
“I want to get into game speed, which is different than training,” Olum told MLSsoccer.com after Monday’s training session. “The pace of the game, the communication between me and the midfield, and all that.”
Olum, who pulled up lame in a 1-0 home loss to Chicago on June 29, returned to action as a stoppage-time sub in Saturday night’s scoreless home draw against New England.
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 0, NE 0
“I feel good," he said. "The medical staff took good care of me while I was nursing my injury. I should be 100 percent by the next league game [Saturday at home against Columbus].”
Collin, who will play in his first MLS All-Star game on Wednesday after being selected by the fans, picked up his third caution of Cup play in Sporting’s 2-0 semifinal win over Philadelphia.
“Even before that I was thinking I wanted to come back as quickly as possible, so I can make an impact for the team whenever they want me,” Olum said. “Then that gave me even more motivation to get back in there quickly, and hopefully get that win on August 8.”
While stressing that Sporting do have other options in the backline for the final – defensive midfielder Julio Cesar, converted midfielder Konrad Warzycha or even a shift in formation – assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin said Olum had positioned himself as a key player in the defensive corps before his injury.
“I think Olum’s done a fantastic job when he’s been in there,” Zavagnin said. “It’s important that he integrates himself quickly back into the team, and this will be an outstanding opportunity for him to get back to game speed.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.