CHESTER PA - SEPTEMBER 04: Danny Califf #4 of the Philadelphia Union kicks the ball past Birahim Diop #27 of the Kansas City Wizards at PPL Park on September 4 2010 in Chester Pennsylvania. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Andy Edwards, of SB Nation's Sporting Kansas City blog The Daily Wiz, and I exchanged three questions a piece ahead of today's Philadelphia Union-SKC match at PPL Park. To read my answers to Andy's questions, click the linked text here.
tBG: You brought up Teal Bunbury in your three questions to me. Has he been disappointed at all by not being called up to the USMNT Gold Cup team?
TDW: Among a number of other things, yes. Teal's recent run of poor form actually started all the way back in mid-April, shortly following his two goal performance at Vancouver. Actually, it was the very next game at Columbus that I had begun to notice his penchance for trying to just do too much on his own and make the spectacular happen all the time.
On top of that, he also can't seem to put a shot on frame, either. The combination of all these factors, and the recent re-emergence of rookie forward CJ Sapong, must have done something to spook Teal's confidence and how sure he is of his place in the side. If we can talk a bit about Sapong for a moment, it seems as if he does everything that Teal does, but more consistently. Bunbury is the quintessential forward - super cold when off, and super hot when on - but Sapong, who more uses his sheer athleticism to score goals, win balls and hold possession, has shown to be ever consistent in the center forward role, even as a baby-faced rookie.
The one saving grace for Bunbury's inclusion in the team is this: the next 10 weeks see Sporting play 15 games in the league, along with potentially multiple US Open Cup ties, as well. Even if Sapong keeps up his consistent play and outshines Bunbury for a while longer, Teal is going to get his chances, simply because the human body can't go 90 minutes twice a week for two months.
As a final word on what's wrong with Bunbury, he's simply lacking confidence at the moment. And, as you know, confidence is everything for a goalscorer. Partly due to the Gold Cup roster exclusion, Sapong's challenge for his minutes and possibly a bit of buying into his own hype.
tBG: How much of a loss is Ryan Smith to SKC's fortunes?
TDW: When the news first broke on Tuesday, I quickly tried to rationalize that it wasn't a big loss at all; that we had simply gotten along fairly for much of the season already, and that the team could continue doing so. But, as I wrote my story on the news and the effect it would have on the team, my rationalization progressed from just that - rationalizing - to fearfulness. If you take 45 seconds to look at my story and scroll down most of the way to the tables outlining head coach Peter Vermes' tactical options both before and after Smith leaving, that says most of what you need to know.
Forget the fact that he was a player unlike any other in the league. Forget that he could simply create something from nothing in the blink of an eye. What it does to the numbers and depth of the roster is the biggest loss. As someone who could flip the field and go from left winger to right mid-game, the options for Vermes were endless. It allowed designated player Omar Bravo to move freely throughout the field, either as left winger, right winger or attacking midfielder. Now, Bravo is likely married to the left forward spot for much of 2011. Kei Kamara is also now the only player that can effectively play the right side.
Long story short, it's a big loss.
tBG: My favorite player to watch on SKC right now is Zusi. He's had some amazing goals this year and that's made him into someone interesting to watch. What else has he done for SKC this year other than putting the ball into the net?
TDW: Get in line, buddy. Zusi is the man of the hour here in KC right now. He's been a true revelation for Sporting over the last month. And, to think that if it weren't for the Gold Cup taking Stephane Auvray and Craig Rocastle away for a couple weeks, he likely wouldn't have had the same chance for playing time.
It almost seems like Graham is one of those guys that does a lot of things pretty well, but not much great - a la Jack Jewsbury. But, then you see him strike the ball a few times (from 45 yards out against FC Dallas on a free kick) and you think to yourself, "man, that guy is a pure ball striker." He set the game's only goal last Friday against San Jose off a free kick that he placed on a dime inside the 6-yard box from 30 yards out. My favorite thing to watch him do, though, is the 60 yard diagonal ball he plays from his own half to a forward on either wing, flipping and accelerating the attack the other way - a la Paul Scholes.
He's also played as a forward in Vermes' 4-3-3, which is something no one knew he could do. But, given his ball striking ability, we probably should have assumed. With the loss of Smith, though, and players being much more anchored to one position along the top line, I very much expect him to drop back and play far more as the attacking midfielder the rest of the season. It's more of a natural spot for him.
TDW: A 1-1 draw.