By TATE STEINLAGE
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Matt Besler will add an armband to his kit this season. The 27-year-old defender was announced as Sporting KC’s 2014 captain Tuesday at the club’s “Sporting Takeoff” event.
Besler took the stage to some 2,000 Sporting KC fans, many of whom were chanting a common phrase heard by the defender: “Hometown hero.”
“I’m extremely honored,” Besler told SBI. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity, the challenges, and the responsibilities that come along with being a captain.”
“I’m honored to represent the club at that level, and mainly to represent my teammates on and off the field,” Besler added.
Besler is a two-time MLS Best XI selection and two-time MLS All-Star. This season will be his sixth with the club, dating back to 2009 when the team was still the Kansas City Wizards. Previously, Besler donned the the captain’s armband in a number of non-MLS fixtures.
The Overland Park, Kan. native wouldn’t tell the media when he found out the news, but he did say for certain that he’s out to make the title his own.
“I’m not looking to replace Jimmy Nielsen. I’m looking to be my own captain,” Besler said. “The thing about this team — the way that this team has been developed and formed — there are a lot of different leaders that lead in a different way. I’m going to be wearing the armband, but at certain times during the season, every single guy is going to have to step up. That’s the great thing about this team, because it really is a team-first atmosphere.”
As for the captain’s philosophies, Besler said there are none — yet.
“You’ll have to ask me in a week,” Besler said with a smile. “I really haven’t thought about it.”
Here are more Sporting Kansas City notes:
SINOVIC READY FOR OPENER, VERMES DISCUSSES INJURY CONCERNS
Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic says he will be ready for Saturday’s MLS opener against the Seattle Sounders despite picking up a hip injury in the championship match of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
“It (hip injury) is good,” Sinovic told SBI Tuesday. “If I’m called on, I’ll be ready to go. It was just something that I didn’t want to mess with.”
The 27-year-old participated in training as usual Tuesday, however, manager Peter Vermes says the team is still monitoring he and forward C.J. Sapong’s progress before making a decision about their availability for Saturday.
“I don’t know if Seth’s going to be able to go yet,” Vermes told SBI. “We’re going to play this by ear as we go through the next couple days, because both of them (Sinovic and Sapong) have recovered a lot quicker than they thought they would.”
Sapong picked up a contusion back on Feb. 22 against Fluminense FC. The injury forced him to sit out of the team’s final two preseason contests in Orlando, Fla.
When asked about the possibility of Sinovic’s injury opening the door for homegrown defender Kevin Ellis Saturday, Vermes simply said, “It could.”
“(There’s) Josh Gardner,” Vermes added. “We have other guys who can play there as well.
“Right now we have some nicks and bruises with some guys, more than just that. We still got Chance (Myers) who’s struggling a bit. (Paulo) Nagamura and C.J. are coming off an issue as well. All those things we got to take into consideration as we go into this game. I really don’t have an idea today of what’s going to be out there on Saturday just because I’m going to have to play this out for the next couple days.”
KRONBERG FOCUSED ON HIS OWN IDENTITY
Goalkeeper Eric Kronberg has waited his turn. The longest-tenured player on Sporting KC’s roster has only appeared in five matches in eight years.
But his time is now, and there’s no tougher task than replacing a club legend like Jimmy Nielsen. Rather than replicate Nielsen’s play, Kronberg says he’s out to be himself.
“I’m a different goalkeeper,” Kronberg told SBI. “I have different strengths and weaknesses and stuff like that, but the coaching staff has faith that I am a good fit for the job and that’s why I’m still here. I’m not Jimmy — I’m me — and that’s what I’m looking forward to showing everyone.”
Don’t think Kronberg hasn’t taken any advice from Nielsen, though. The lines of the communication between the two have been open this offseason.
“I talked to Jimmy a little bit and he said, ‘Just play your game. Don’t try and do something you’re not good at. Just play what you’re good at and play to your strengths,’” Kronberg said. “That was his advice to me — also to never get down. You’re going to go through ups and downs, so don’t get too high and don’t get too low.”
Some of Nielsen’s best advice came unspoken.
“Jimmy was a very good leader on and off the field and he really knew how to get the best out of each player,” Kronberg added. “Sometimes you have to kinda kick someone in the butt and sometimes you have to put an arm around them. That’s something Jimmy was excellent at. He could really read players well and he knew how to get the most out of them, so that’s something I’ve really tried to work on with my game lately.”
All of this culminates Saturday when Kronberg takes the pitch as the opening-day starter.
“Once you step on the field, it all washes away and it’s just a game, something that you do everyday. That’s kinda where I come from. I’m just really looking forward to this year.”
OTHER NEWS AND NUGGETS:
- Sporting KC revealed their secondary kit Tuesday. The striped design features a checkerboard crest, which, on the inside, features the club’s adopted U.S. Open Cup supporter’s phrase, “For the Glory of the City.”
- MLS Super Draft selection Alex Martinez has filled one of Sporting KC’s three available supplemental roster spots after the team signed the former N.C. State midfielder Tuesday.