No, don’t be sad, it was a great run while it lasted. Pay your respects and move on, that’s what the Wizards would want for you.
Say hello to Sporting Kansas City. Brand new name. Brand new team crest. Brand new team colors and jerseys. Brand new players. Brand new enthusiasm and buzz. And oh yeah, brand new stadium on the way.
The question is, can KC soccer fans expect to see some new results on the field? I mean, all that new stuff is great for the marketing people to tout in the offseason, but the play on the field is what really matters, right? Remember, last year’s Wizards had high hopes heading into the season, but ended up 11-13-6 and missed the playoffs…
Thus far, Head Coach Peter Vermes has been nothing but positive.
Vermes is excited about a bunch of things. First off are the new additions to the club, especially designated player Omar Bravo. As understated as Vermes is, the way he talks about Bravo reveals the ample amount of respect he has for the Mexican star. When asked how Bravo was fitting in so far, Vermes paused contemplatively before saying, "Omar has been a pleasure to have on the team."
Stop right there. That’s about the highest praise I’ve ever heard out of Vermes. But he wasn’t done:
"He’s a very, very good soccer player… He’s a very committed guy, he’s here for the right reasons, he wants to be successful in this league. He knows it’s a difficult league to play in and it’s not going to be easy."
And we’re only a week or two into pre-season.
There are other new additions scrapping it out for a roster spot that seem to have caught Vermes’ eye as well. Again, it’s more about his tone when he talks about them that leads me to believe these guys will be sporting Sporting Blue this season. First is Julio Cesar Santos, an experienced Brazilian defender who the Sporting boss says is "definitely not afraid to go through on a tackle, but definitely brings a calming presence to the back."
Adda Djeziri, a young Algerian winger who Vermes has praised for his physical attributes, as well as his skills on the ball, also seems among the favorites already: "Djeziri is interesting. The bigger the field, the more field he eats up. And he has very good service from the outside."
The other thing that is striking so far, is that no matter who you talk to: Vermes, Assistant Coach Kerry Zavagnin, Kei Kamara, Michael Harrington, even Craig Rocastle, who struggled to get fit enough to stay on the field for 90 minutes at the beginning of the 2010 campaign – almost no one can get through an interview without mentioning how fit this squad is, and how much further along they are now than at this point last year. And make no mistake; fitness is extremely important if SKC is going to play how Vermes wants them to – high pressure all over the field, pushing the line of confrontation as far into the opponent’s half as possible.
"I think the guys in the offseason have done the work which is great," said Vermes. "The one major thing that has really occurred and is evident through the testing is there has been a major culture change within the group. Their scores from last year to this year, in the guys that have returned, are night and day difference."
With the increased fitness and understanding of key returning players, as well as the addition of some real foreign talent that "gets it," why shouldn’t Vermes be Mr. Positive? He has a shiny new stadium to play in, a team that is buying into his system big time, and a much more physically gifted pool of players to build his roster than in year’s past.
"I say this all the time – there’s a lot of foreign players who come to this league and take it for granted. They don’t realize how fast and how physical this league can become. They don’t take it seriously and they just get chewed up and spit out. So for all these guys, part of our evaluation is #1 to compare, #2 is do they pick up the speed, and also are they able to withstand the physicality of this league? And I think that’s the one thing we’re going to have to do, as part of our evaluation, is determine whether they can meet the demands of MLS."
Only five weeks until the season starts, so we’ll find out sooner than later.