If a new stadium and a complete rebrand weren’t enough to make someone believe that Sporting Kansas City were aiming for new heights, club captain Davy Arnaud made it abundantly clear on Tuesday.
“We feel like we have the personnel to not just sneak into the playoffs, but the potential to be competing to win our conference and ultimately be playing the MLS Cup final,” Arnaud said on a media conference call from Arizona. “We’re aiming high and we have a good enough team to get home field in the playoffs and to be playing on the last day of the season.”
Using the preseason as an indication, Sporting are already on track to achieve those goals, according to Arnaud. It starts with the aggressive offseason training regimen handed down to players by new fitness and conditioning coach Mateus Manoel, who joined the club last July.
The squad is not just ahead of schedule on the fitness front, but Arnaud says his teammates have an advanced understanding of what they need to do as a team on the field of play.
“Where we’re at right now is definitely further along than we were at the same point last year,” Arnaud said. “Peter [Vermes, manager] felt the starting point [this year] would be farther along and it has been.”
The failings of the 2010 season were evident. Performances were inconsistent, goals were conceded at inopportune times as a result of poor team defending and Kansas City often failed to convert key opportunities in front of goal.
With the team’s offseason additions, highlighted by the acquisition of Designated Player Omar Bravo, there is a feeling that the team has added the necessary depth and competition at every position to address every one of those deficiencies.
“Aggressive is the word,” Arnaud said when asked to describe the style team will feature in 2011. “We don’t want to be a team that sits back and allows other teams to dictate. We want to be the aggressors, playing home and away.”
However, the single biggest offseason upgrade for the team may come in the form of Sporting Kansas City’s new soccer stadium, which will open in 2011. Arnaud feels the wider spaces will allow the club to take advantage of the speed on the team.
“More space allows us to be more of who we are,” he said. “The field we’re going to be playing on at home will be more of an advantage.”
The pieces seem to be falling into place for Sporting. As he enters his 10th season, Arnaud admits this year is like no other in club history.
“I’ve been around when we were at Arrowhead, training out of the Chiefs’ locker room and playing at CommunityAmerica Ballpark,” Arnaud said. “And now for me to get to be a part of this club, which I love, and to get to be part of playing in this new stadium, I can’t describe how excited I am about that personally.
“If you told us we had to play 16 road games to open the season, every player here would say, 'Absolutely, let’s do it.' It’s going to be a special place for us. We’re fortunate to have the group of owners we have who have shown faith in us and we want to return the favor and be the team we know we can be.”