Shake it up a little bit Saturday night, Peter. You've nothing to lose. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
With the Kansas City Wizards playing their final game of the 2010 MLS season on Saturday night, and having already been mathematically eliminated from the playoff race, that game now has very little meaning. Other than final table positioning and MLS SuperDraft order, of course. So, I imagine that most Wizards fans, like myself, aren't particularly worried about the specifics of the game on Saturday and feel the "must-win" sense of urgency.
That's why I really wouldn't mind if Wizards head coach Peter Vermes decided to get a little cheeky, threw caution to the wind, and decided to throw out a change of pace starting XI and use of substitutions. There have been a few acquisitions to the roster since the season started, some of which we are yet to see appear for the Wiz at all, so what better time to give a few different guys a run-out and the fans a chance to see something slightly different.
Because, let's face it - Josh Wolff playing on the left wing isn't going to bring goals-a-plenty.
Since late July, Vermes has settled on a fairly regular starting lineup of: Nielsen - Harrington, Thomas, Conrad, Espinoza - Arnaud, Auvray, Rocastle - Kamara, Bunbury, Smith.
Jimmy Conrad (concussion) and Ryan Smith (personal reasons) will not play Saturday, so that leaves the XI with: Nielsen - Harrington, Thomas, (open), Espinoza - Arnaud, Auvray, Rocastle - Kamara, Bunbury, (open).
Personally, I think Stephane Auvray has struggled of late, and that he may just have run out of he gas at the end. He did miss two months for knee surgery, and probably never got his full fitness back, after all. So, I really think we've got about three spots that Vermes can have a little fun with. Here's the XI in its current state on the chopping block: Nielsen - Harrington, Thomas, (open), Espinoza - Arnaud, (open), Rocastle - Kamara, Bunbury, (open).
So, what exactly am I proposing we do with these open spots in the starting XI? I'm so glad you asked.
Why not? He was signed at the very end of July, has yet to log a minute of game time, and has only appeared on the bench a handful of times. To be honest, I'm not quite sure if anyone even knows what the guy looks like. Greek stereotype taken, most would probably guess long, dark hair, thin mustache and big, physical build. Maybe a thin hairband like Michael Harrington wears.
Why not let everyone else in on what the guy looks like?
All jokes aside, couldn't it be useful to see what he can do, given that it's the last game of the season, and with Conrad's mounting concussion history, and the two team expansion draft next month in which he might not even be protected, maybe Nikos is a stop-gap for another year or two until KC finds a quality replacement for Conrad, who has been a stalwart for years.
Note: Kounenakis paired with Matt Besler in the center of defense would make my year. I realize this is highly unlikely. We're probably more likely to see Shavar Thomas and Besler, followed by Thomas with Kounenakis.
Probability of seeing Kounenakis: I put it at or around 33%.
Say what you will of Myers' performances this season, but I like his game. He's been given minimal opportunity, (14 appearances in 2010, 494 minutes total - 70 minutes per (5) start and 15 minutes per (9) substitute appearance) so I don't think he's necessarily been given the greatest chance to succeed.
Never mind the fact that he's been thrown out at all three levels along the right side of the field - rightback, right mid and right forward - and you can see even more why he's struggled to find his comfort zone. At just 22 years old, Myers is still the second youngest player on the team, (Teal Bunbury the youngest at 20, of course) so it's far too early to write him off. All that can be done for him now is to throw him into the pool. He'll choose whether he sinks or swims.
Probability of seeing Myers: Seeing as how Vermes has gone to him fairly frequently, I think it's a safe bet we get a dose of Chance at some point on Saturday. 75%.
This is, by far, my absolute favorite idea for Saturday's game. Just the thought of seeing Beasley play for the first time in a KC uniform has me excited. And, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea why. We know that he's not his US national team brother DaMarcus. We know that if he were performing considerably well in practice, we would have seen him make a bench appearance this year, never mind getting on the field. And, he's definitely no spring chicken - 31 years old.
So, why did I decide to write this entire post based on the fact that I want to see Jamar Beasley play, and start, on Saturday night? There's nothing else to discuss about this game? I've seen enough of Josh Wolff? I'm slightly illogical and crazy? Probably, yes and most definitely.
Here's my logic: Like Kounenakis, we're not entirely sure what he looks like either. Let's find out. From what I've read, he plays the wide left position similar to his brother, which also happens to be Smith's vacated starting spot. And, with his last four employers all being indoor soccer league teams, this would serve as a free audition with the Missouri Comets, who are filling out a roster of their own for the upcoming season. I would give anything to see Jamar get a run-out against San Jose on Saturday.
Probability of seeing Beasley: Of all my brilliant ideas, this is probably the most farfetched, unfortunately. 5%.
So, in review, give me Nielsen - Harrington, Besler, Kounenakis, Espinoza - Myers, Rocastle, Myers - Kamara, Bunbury, Beasley and I am one happy camper come Saturday at 7:30 p.m. By the way, Jimmy Nielsen must start and play all 90 minutes in this game. It will make for a perfect 2,700 minutes in league play for the season. Only New York Red Bull's Tim Ream, (already played his 30th game) Colorado Rapids' Drew Moor and Columbus Crew's Will Hesmer can accomplish the same feat.