KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Claudio Bieler is feeling good and ready to get back into Sporting Kansas City's squad, after sitting out last weekend's match with a slight groin strain.
And once he retakes the pitch, the Argentinian center forward doesn't want to come off.
“I'm excited,” Bieler said through a translator on Thursday. “It's the end of the season. It's time to prove a point, that we can really make a difference and win something. The only thing that's keeping me from being all-in, being truly happy, is the fact that I haven't been playing a whole lot.”
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“A whole lot” might be a relative term.
The first-year DP has actually appeared in all but three of Sporting's 29 matches, with 25 starts, and he leads the club with 10 goals in league play and 11 across all competitions. That makes him the fourth player in Kansas City history, and the first since Miklos Molnar in 2000, to record double-digit goals in his first season.
But Bieler also has gone the full 90 minutes only 12 times, and that bothers him.
“I'd like to get minutes, and more minutes, and maybe finish off games so that I can score goals,” he said. “That's what I like to do.”
Bieler and defensive midfielder Uri Rosell both will be in the 18 for Friday's home match against Philadelphia, manager Peter Vermes said during the club's weekly news conference. Both missed Saturday's 2-1 away victory over Toronto. Midfielder Paulo Nagamura, who also sat out that game with a sore ankle, will miss the Union match as well.
With only five matches left in their regular season, Sporting are closing in on a postseason spot and sit only three points behind Eastern Conference-leading New York. Bieler, who has never played in a playoff league in his career, said that while the MLS format differs from his prior experience, the underlying challenge doesn't change.
“I'm used to a single table,” he said. “The teams at the top are fighting for a championship, the teams in the middle are fighting to make sure they don't drop below, and the teams in the bottom are killing each other because they don't want to go to the second division. So it creates a different competition through the year, for sure.
"But regardless of the structure, it's a matter of win-win-win. You've got to keep winning, if you want to win the title.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.