Ahead of this saturday's game against the oddly renamed Sporting Kansas City, I caught up with Andy Edwards of the excellent 'sticking with their name and proud of it' The Daily Wiz, the SB Nation blog for Sporting Kansas City. As this is the first of my articles about the game over the weekend, I guess I should apologise now to any SKC fans for the amount of times that I forget the 'City' in Kansas City. I guarantee it will happen early and often.
Anyway, Andy's kindly answered my questions about Omar Bravo, how the Gold Cup's affecting their squad and their new stadium. So, Kansas City, how you doin'?
Waking the Red: How will the Gold Cup affect Sporting Kansas City? We all know Teal Bunbury won't be missing (ha!) but are there any regular players who'll be away, and if so, who'll have to replace them?
The Daily Wiz: Actually, the Gold Cup is going to hit KC pretty hard. The four players that will be playing in the competition are defenders Shavar Thomas (not a huge loss at all) and Roger Espinoza (starting leftback) and midfielders Stephane Auvray (first team fringe player) and Craig Rocastle (the biggest loss of the lot of them, in my opinion).
Honestly, if I could trade Teal being selected and keep one of those other players, it would be Rocastle. He's regained the starting defensive midfielder spot in Peter Vermes' 4-3-3 and has really played well of late. He will be available this weekend, with the rest of the players already having joined their national teams. The reason I say I would trade Teal being gone for them is that KC has so much depth at forward that it's almost a joke. The midfield is going to be stretched extremely thin - like, only three real midfielders and a couple other players who can play it on the entire roster. Guys like Luke Sassano and Graham Zusi are going to get huge opportunities to contribute over the next month.
WTR: A new name and a new stadium. What sort of impact is this restart having on the team, supporters, and the KC soccer community as a whole? Given all the allegations and rumours, are supporters uneasy about the association with Lance Armstrong?
TDW: With having played now 10 games on the road to start the season, it's been somewhat hard to gauge the level of interest around town, simply because there have been no home games to draw a crowd. From the people I have personally talked to, people are excited. The stadium is an absolute gem and opens in just 6 days. It almost doesn't seem fathomable that we are going to have that big, beautiful building to play SOCCER in.
The thing with Lance Armstrong is, at least for me, a non-issue. If the stadium were named "Lance Armstrong Sporting Park" or "Tour de France Champ Sporting Park," then sure, I could see the problem with the association. But, with it being LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, it's not directly associated to his name. The principle of the partnership is the fight against cancer, not to be connected with a particular person - Armstrong in this case. Does having his face and voice tied to it help with global recognition? Absolutely. But, I still hate cancer whether he is proven to have blood-doped or not.
WTR: You've obviously got a lot of talented forwards, how is the return from injury of Omar Bravo affecting the starting lineup and formation? Who do you think will be starting in Toronto?
TDW: As soon as Omar came back from injury, he was straight into the starting XI, and I think that says a lot for 1) what Vermes thinks of him and his importance to the team, and 2) his class as a player. He's played a bit on the left, a bit in the midfield, a bit on the right, a bit here and there. He's a versatile player and has taken on different roles in the team in a given game. Basically, whatever Vermes feels he needs him to do for the team to be successful, he does it.
With Kei Kamara on Sierra Leone national team duty in an African Cup of Nations qualifier this Saturday, he is obviously out. It's looking like Bunbury will be back in the lineup this week (look out for what he did against Vancouver - be careful what you wish for) and Ryan Smith looks to finally be getting his first start of the season after being a second half sub the last month after knee surgery. He scored the late equalizer last week against Colorado, so he must be feeling confident, which could be a bad thing for upcoming opponents. From right to left: Smith, Bunbury, Bravo - with Smith and Bravo flipping with each other periodically throughout the evening.