The longer Sporting Kansas City's preseason goes without a goal from Claudio Bieler, the more restless voices pop up.
When, they wonder aloud on social and other media outlets. When is Sporting's new Designated Player, brought in to bolster an attack that sometimes struggled to score in 2012, going to put the ball in the back of the net?
Manager Peter Vermes says that's not the club's primary concern right now. The main thing is to get Bieler, who scored 20 goals last year for Ecuador's LDU Quito, integrated into SKC's high-pressing 4-3-3 set.
“He's getting used to how we play and what the expectations are," Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Monday from Orlando, Fla. “It's a process for players who come new to our team, because we want to play a certain way and each of the individual positions have roles and responsibilities that go in with the whole group.
"So it just takes time. But all of his qualities are what we hoped for, and the great thing is that we see a progression every day from the guy. It's always positive progress.”
One measure of that progress could be overheard on web broadcasts of Sporting's group-stage matches in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
In the first two matches, whenever Sporting were moving up the pitch on attack or defending deep in the opposition's end, Vermes repeatedly shouted, “Claudio, va! Va! Va!” (That's “Go! Go! Go!” in Spanish.) But on Saturday, in a 1-0 win over the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies, Bieler was far more active in the attacking third – without Vermes having to tell him.
“He's trying to understand how we press, and that's not easy,” Vermes said. “How are you going to be able to react to that? Are you going to be able to step your game up and be able to start putting the kind of effort and speed and pressure? When you see it getting better from game to game to game, you realize that he's not only getting a better understanding, he's getting within the team concept – figuring out what we're doing, why we're doing it.”
Bieler also is getting acclimated to the fitness demands of Sporting's system, Vermes said.
“It's just a different level that we're looking for when it comes to that,” he said. “I'm not going to say that it's anything good, bad or indifferent in comparison with anybody else. It's what we need from guys in certain positions, and how we want to see them in their position. But he's getting better.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.