KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After sitting out Sporting Kansas City's CONCACAF Champions League opener, Claudio Bieler is ready to make an impact in his fourth different international tournament.
The Argentinian center forward, who leads Sporting with nine goals in his first MLS season, has already played in the Copa Sudamericana,Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup with Ecuadorian side LDU Quito. He didn't suit up earlier this month when Kansas City opened group stage play with a 2-0 away victory over Nicaragua's Real Esteli, but is looking to contribute when Sporting visit Honduran powerhouse CD Olimpia on Tuesday.
“Obviously, experience is very important,” Bieler told MLSsoccer.com through an interpreter after Sunday's training session. “It's a different type of game, so obviously if you've played in that environment before it helps. You're more habituated to it. I'm available, I'm ready, and if the manager decides to use me, I'm ready to go, just like I have been in the other competitions.”
Sporting and their DP have struggled offensively in recent matches, though. Kansas City has been shut out in two straight losses and three of their last five outings, and Bieler hasn't found the net since scoring the final goal of a 3-0 home rout of Toronto FC on July 13.
“It's something we need to get better in,” he said. “It's momentary. It's not something that's been a problem the whole season, but the time is coming when we're going to score goals.”
And despite his current dry spell – and being held out of last Friday's 1-0 loss at Chicago – Bieler said he still expects to contribute down the stretch into the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“I feel that I have a role to play in this,” he said. “As long as I'm on the field, I'm going to keep trying. I'm going to keep battling. I'm not going to give up. I'm a guy who likes to play the full game, the full 90 minutes, and lately I've been taken off because of the decisions of the coach, and I respect that.
“At the end of the day, it's a group effort, and we have to battle together to get through these tough times. Every team has a tough period in the season, so it's just all about how you bounce back.”
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And while Sporting hope to make use of Bieler's experience in regional play, manager Peter Vermes said on Sunday, they won't be depending on him alone to carry them past an Olimpia side that is a CCL fixture and made the 2010-11 quarterfinals.
“Everybody's played in some big game of this nature,” Vermes said. “Whether it's been an international game, whether it's been a friendly or what-have-you, almost all these guys have some experience in these type of competitions. So you can't rely on one guy's shoulders by any means. But he does have experience in these competitions, and that can lend a lot to us.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.