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With the impending announcement of new designated player and forward Claudio Bieler on Tuesday, some fans are already writing the move off as a mistake, or even worse, a waste. This is, obviously, senseless.
The secret about the Argentine-born Ecuadorian star signing for Sporting Kansas City has not been well-kept the last couple of weeks in Kansas City. The earliest of reviews have ranged from "very good" to "a waste," often times depending on who you're listening to. That's not to say that I'm always right (often the case, but everyone gets one wrong now and then), but...
To label the signing of a player that upwards of 90-percent of the fanbase will never have even heard of - and even fewer will have actually seen play - is really quite absurd.
The likes of Fredy Montero, Alvaro Saborio, David Ferreira, Mauro Rosales, etc. will have, in many cases, been names completely unbeknownst to your everyday, average MLS fan. Some of those players turned out quite alright for teams willing to take a gamble on an unknown quantity offering a huge payout in success. Granted, there's always the chance things could go awry - Mista, Mustapha Jarju, Jeferson, etc. - and turn out as another failed experiment in a still young and flourishing league.
In these cases, the potential reward of obtaining contractual rights to a relatively young and talented player for lesser money can far outweigh the risks of a supposed "big name signing" that comes in with loads of fanfare, and pressure. Rafael Marquez, anybody? Kris Boyd?
What technical director/head coach Peter Vermes and Sporting Club president/CEO Robb Heineman have done is exactly what they were unable to do in 2012: find "their" guy, that fits their plan, and at the right price.
"Where's the goalscoring forward?" This is a question I've been asked countless times on Twitter, and seen even more in public forums over the past couple weeks while Sporting added a couple of very good signings in Benny Feilhaber and Ike Opara, albeit in other parts of the field.
First of all, the term "goalscoring forward" is a farce. For crying out loud, CJ Sapong and Teal Bunbury's jobs as forwards is to score goals. If there were an infinite amount of these players "that just score goals," as the common phrase goes, every team in the world would want and have one - or three. And, let me tell you, these centaur-like creatures would certainly pick the riches of Europe over MLS any day of the week.
If there's such a thing as a goalscoring forward to come to MLS this offseason, Bieler could be it. Bieler has played four of his eight professional seasons at his most recent club, LDU Quito - a situation that obviously fits him as he left for a period and returned two years later. In 109 game for Quito, Bieler notched an astounding 57 goals - slightly more than a goal every other game. That's a very respectable goal-scoring rate. For comparison purposes, Didier Drogba averaged a bit over a goal every three games in eight years at Chelsea (157 in 341 games). Robin van Persie - less than one every other game (132 in 277) in eight years at Arsenal. Granted, these are numbers coming from the English Premier League, but the league to which Bieler is coming is certainly not that.
Tires still have plenty of tread. While 28 years old, Bieler is a "young" 28-year old. By comparison, at age 28, many professional South Americans have been playing professionally closer to a dozen years. Age 29 through 32 - the length for which Bieler is likely to be signed - could be a fruitful patch of goals, as is the case with many great strikers. He will turn 29 the day before MLS First Kick 2013.
He's good enough to play for Argentina? Any player that as recently as 2010 has been deemed worthy of a call-up to the Argentina national team is a player that I've got room for in my squad any day of the week. If Bieler feels MLS is forefront enough of a place to work himself into the Ecuadorian national team - for which he is also eligible - then he'll certainly have the motivation to take his new league by storm.
For me, how Bieler will fair against defenders often times a half-foot taller and adapt to MLS's physical nature of play will be the biggest question in his integration to the league. This is a player with the on-ball skills of a class higher than the like of Sapong, Bunbury, et al, and that's likely to be apparent from day one.
As with many great forwards, there will be times when Bieler has little impact on a game for stretches at a time, but as with these top players, they announce their return to impact with great bravado. One person quite familiar with Bieler's career put things to me this way: "In terms of going missing and having those special moments (of brilliance), I think it's probably fair to compare him with someone like [Fredy] Montero."
In the end, it's all up to Bieler himself to write his own story in the hearts of Sporting fans. But, as a general rule of thumb, let's let the guy show us that he sucks, or that he is in fact "a waste" over the course of, say, a season or two, before making that determination ourselves based on nothing.