With the home opener less than two months away, Sporting KC is gearing up for the 2012 season…
Friday, the team endured the legendary "beep test," which is a running exercise used to measure the team’s overall fitness levels at the beginning of preseason.
It’s dreaded by SKC players, but is a necessary evil for coach Peter Vermes’ preferred style of play, which involves a lot of running and pressure all over the field. Word is that overall, the team showed up in even better shape than at this point last year, so that’s a good sign players are really buying into the system.
Prior to the "beep test" I had the chance to catch up with one of Sporting KC’s newest additions, defender Cyprian Hedrick (Sip-REE-an HE-drick), who was taken in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft out of Coastal Carolina. He was the 2011 Big South Defensive Player of the Year, and a decent sized, athletic player with the physical tools to play in the league right away if needed.
Most likely, though, he’ll come off the bench, at least at first, and provide some defensive depth on the squad.
Hedrick’s best chance to crack the starting lineup would be to beat out Seth Sinovic, who started at left back almost all of last year, and who recently signed a new deal with Sporting. Sinovic is a smart and gritty player, who can go forward and serve a decent ball into the box. But he was exposed on the flanks at times last year by wingers with above average pace.
His next best chance would be to take Julio Cesar’s defensive center mid spot. No doubt Cyprian can best Cesar in the athleticism department, but that position also requires some keen decision making, and the veteran proved in the second half of last season that he can still play that crucial linking ball to spring the offense.
I talked to Cyprian about his time so far in Kansas City, his expectations for the 2012 season, and what it’s like being a rookie on a team with the merry prankster, Kei Kamara…
When did you arrive in KC?
Just a few days ago, I got in on Tuesday.
What have you been up to since you arrived?
I’ve been meeting the guys and we’ve been training a little bit. So I’m just trying to get accustomed to everything, the weather and everything. It’s a little different coming from Texas where it’s always sunny and whatnot. So I’m just trying to adapt to everything.
Have any of the guys shown you around town at all yet?
Not so much because we have a lot of things to get done. But I’m sure as soon as we get settled in a little more they will.
Had you ever been to KC before this week?
No, this is my very first time in Kansas.
What do you think of KC so far?
Yeah, it seems like a really nice area. I obviously am not really the kind of guy who is really fond of the cold weather. But it seems really nice, like over around the Plaza, that’s a really nice area. I don’t know too much, but I want to find out more, get out more, and give it some time.
Have you made it out to the stadium yet?
No, not yet, but I want to do that.
Has Peter Vermes spoken to you about his expectations for you heading into the season?
No, not yet. Right now we’re just trying to get back in the flow of everything, but I’m sure that’s a talk we will have. Hopefully that’s something that we’ll get around to talking about.
You played mostly central defender in college, but there might be more opportunity on this team for you as an outside defender. How would you feel about that?
I’ll play anywhere the team needs me. If I need to help at central defender that’s great. If I need to step in at holding midfield I’m willing to do whatever personally to help my team. There’s a lot of great players who have been here playing both those positions very well that I want to learn a lot from, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with these guys, so I’m really excited to learn a few things. Whatever my team requires of me is what I’m willing to do.
Can you swing out wide, and if so are you comfortable going forward a lot like Sporting likes to do with its wings?
I have played outside a little bit, not as much as holding mid or center back. But it’s just one of those things, I have to get used to everything in the system. But I do feel comfortable going forward. It’s learning, and I’d really study the position and really learn it. It’s not something I’ve done a lot, of but I have a few times. So it’ll have to be something that I’ll get done and learn how Sporting plays and how they attack and everything. It’d be difficult, but it’s something that I could definitely do.
You were a sports management major in college, right?
Yeah, but I actually changed it to marketing.
What’s your impression so far of the ownership group?
The staff and everybody seem like really great people, really friendly. They are looking always to kind of push you and get the maximum performance out of you. So, so far my impression is that all the staff are really good, and I really like everyone so far.
Have you been subjected to any rookie duties yet?
(Laughs) Yeah, we had to bring in some breakfast for the older guys. It was fun, we just had to wake up a little earlier than we wanted to. But we got our rookie duty #1 done. And we were rewarded with a little lunch by Kei, he took us out to Chipotle and we enjoyed a little lunch. So it’s good to get after the rookie duties.
Did you know anyone on the team prior to being drafted by KC?
No, I didn’t at all. I’d seen them play a lot, and being from Texas seeing a lot of Dynamo games, I’ve seen Kei play a lot when he played in Houston. So I didn’t know anyone per se but I’ve seen them play a lot. And it’s nice to be around this environment with all these guys that I’ve been watching.
Who are you most excited about playing with?
Everyone really. And Kei because I’ve seen him play a lot. I was excited to be around Besler – all these guys are really nice. I’m just excited to be in the organization and all the guys have been really great.
Welcome to KC, Cyprian.
Follow Cyprian on Twitter: @cyp_on_it