Photo by Brad Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Seth Sinovic will not be looking for revenge when he lines up on Saturday against Real Salt Lake, the same club that took him on trial two years ago before deciding against bringing him on board.
What he will be focusing on is giving back to Sporting Kansas City by helping them win a championship. After all, his hometown club was the one that took a chance on him after RSL decided to pass.
When Sporting KC hosts Real Salt Lake in the 2013 MLS Cup Final on Saturday afternoon, the match will mark the latest in a series of interesting chapters in Sinovic’s career. The 26-year-old left back, who hails from Leawood, Kan., will face one of the two clubs that turned him down in 2011 before Sporting KC jumped at the chance to develop him into one of the best fullbacks in the league.
That development could have started much earlier if Sporting KC had gotten its way. Kansas City has rated Sinovic highly since his days in college and was contemplating drafting him in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. They were beaten to the punch by the New England Revolution, which took Sinovic early in the second round only to release him after his rookie season.
“He was definitely somebody on our (draft) list and then we kind of kept an eye on him and then when he got released we were snoozing a little bit,” said Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes, who admitted his club didn’t even realize Sinovic was available until after RSL scooped him up.
Vermes wouldn’t be caught sleeping again, calling RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey as soon as he learned RSL was going in another direction.
“I said, ‘Hey, are you guys done with him?’, and he said, ‘Yeah’, and I said, ‘Okay, great.’”
After securing permission from the league, Sporting KC finally had its chance to bring Sinovic in for a look.
“We trained him for like five days,” Vermes said, “and we picked him up right away because we knew that was a guy we actually wanted.”
What Sporting KC got in return was a capable left back who needed some work but showed promise in his first year with the club. Since then, Sinovic has honed his game and made strides on both sides of the ball, putting a clamp on the starting left back spot.
“He developed his game, his possession and his passing have gotten a lot better,” said Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. “He’s coming more up and down the left side now. People were maybe a little bit after him (in the beginning), he was a little too conservative in the way he was playing. But if you watch our games, he’s coming up and down the left side like a hungry horse.”
That has been evident in 2013, especially in the playoffs. Sinovic’s defensive guile has allowed him to make more marauding runs forward, which have in turn resulted in another outlet for Sporting KC’s midfielders. Sinovic has been as effective getting forward as ever, and one of his former clubs found that out the hard way.
In the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Sporting KC dispatched the Revolution on aggregate but only after Sinovic scored a late equalizer that paved the way for Claudio Bieler’s winner in extra time of the tight two-legged series. Sinovic netted a rare but spectacular goal in the 79th minute of that game at Sporting Park, bombarding forward and seeing a ball flicked directly into his path before unleashing a venomous volley that looked like it came from a dangerous forward.
“I think he’s a steady guy and I think the great thing about him is he keeps getting better,” said Vermes. “It’s not like he’s hit a plateau. Tactically, he’s better from a defending perspective in the shape and how we move and all that. But he’s getting better and better as year after year goes in the attack, too. His service is getting better, he’s getting into the box more, he’s giving the final pass, which is obviously a big part of the way we play.”
The way Sinovic plays may not have been an ideal fit with Real Salt Lake, at least not in April 2011 when the club took him on a brief trial. That ultimately turned out to be Sporting KC’s gain, with Vermes bringing in Sinovic for a much-desired look the following month and reaching a contract agreement shortly after.
“I trained with (RSL) for a couple of weeks and played in one reserve game and when my trial was up they hadn’t made a decision yet because they had the CONCACAF Champions League championship series or game going on,” Sinovic told SBI. “They were going to let me know after a couple of weeks, and then I came on to try out with Sporting and Sporting wanted to sign me and the rest is history.”
Sinovic can now add to that history by making Real Salt Lake pay for its decision to not offer him a contract in 2011. No, revenge is not on the mind of Sinovic going into Saturday’s bout, but winning a championship is and that would be a sweeter feeling than any form of personal redemption.
“It’d be awesome,” said Sinovic of winning MLS Cup. “Kansas City, it’s been a while since we’ve had a major trophy in any professional sports and I think it’s been since 1985, I heard, was the last time we had a championship game here. It’s something that the city has been hungry for and obviously growing up in Kansas City, I know what it’s like.
“Hopefully we can give them a trophy.”