KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Neven Markovic was glad to get his first league start for Sporting Kansas City. He was even happier to see the final score and his team’s place atop the Eastern Conference standings.
“I feel very happy and satisfied, first of all, for the result,” Markovic said after a full-90 outing at left back in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over D.C. United. “The team is in front of everything: my playing, [friend and center back Aurélien] Collin’s playing, anybody’s playing. That’s the most important thing.”
Markovic, a veteran of leagues in Eastern Europe and Greece, joined Sporting in early July. At the time, manager Peter Vermes said the Serbian defender’s left-footed versatility would make him an asset at left back as well as in the central defense.
Anywhere is fine, Markovic said, so long as he gets to play.
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 2, DC 1
“I can play on the right side, left side, front, back,” he said. “I don’t care. I just need matches. That’s the most important thing.”
He showed both defensive presence and an ability to push up into the attack against United – and also displayed a physicality and hustle that quickly won over Sporting’s fans and impressed Vermes.
“I think he still needs to find his rhythm within the way we play, but athletically up and down the sideline, he’s hard, he’s connected to the game, he’s never going to walk off that field and give you less than 100 percent,” Vermes said. “So that’s a big step into this team, because all of our guys, when they’re out there, they play and give it their all. So for him to come out and give the performance that he did tonight is a great effort for sure.”
Markovic, who spent several hours after the match responding individually to each congratulatory Twitter message, credited his teammates with helping him mesh into Sporting’s game plan.
“They supported me on the field,” Markovic said. “I need that for my confidence. All 11 guys, we gave good effort on the field. We fight for each other.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.