In the first two weeks on the job, FC Wichita manager John Markey could have been conservative as his club makes the transition from playing for (the still involved) Larry Inlow.
But being conservative isn’t in Markey’s nature and neither is accepting anything less than what he perceives to be the best.
So when he saw Carlos Contreras not performing the tasks Markey asks of him in Saturday’s game against Liverpool Academy, it didn’t matter Contreras is one of FC Wichita’s most creative players on the ball or that the team was leading 2-0 in the 20th minute. Markey subbed him out.
It sent a message to the squad of the expectations that the first-year coach has for the defending South Central Conference champions in the National Premier Soccer League.
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The response from the team, and most importantly Contreras, was exaclty what Markey was looking for in a 5-0 victory over Liverpool Academy at Stryker Soccer Complex.
“I needed to take him out because I felt like if me and him don’t get on the same page early in the season, then it was going to be less beneficial for the team,” Markey said. “We just had to figure some things out and Carlos handled it like a professional. We had a good talk and everything is good. He’s a true professional.”
The win, which kept FC Wichita (2-0) tied atop the conference standings, came three days after a 2-1 loss to the Des Moines Menace in the opening round of the U.S. Open Cup.
“When you lose a game that’s when you are really tested as a team,” veteran Kevin Ten Eyck said. “It can either divide you and everyone does their own thing, or you can come back together and move forward as a team. I thought obviously we did that (Saturday).”
Saturday’s performance was always Markey’s vision for this team: a manic commitment to high pressure that created more possession, which in turn led to more opportunities. FC Wichita’s midfield, particularly the trio of Jeffrey Kyei, Leo Sosa, and Luis Pinto, were all up to the challenge.
“We’ve been working a lot on getting numbers forward in the attack and working on pressing as a team,” Markey said. “Both of those things really culminated tonight.”
Kyei started the scoring in the 13th minute, followed by a goal two minutes later from Richard Osterloh that came directly from the high pressure. Sosa and Ten Eyck added goals on headers from set pieces, then Kyei provided the final scoreline in the 89th by converting a penalty.
It was the kind of win that can provide the chemistry that an amateur team like FC Wichita needs early in the season.
And Markey’s bold move paid off: the coach and Contreras spent 20 minutes on the field talking and the meeting ended with an understanding and a handshake.
“There is so much talent on this team that if we all get on the same page and we are all working toward trying to skin the cat in the same way,” Markey said, “then we’re going to have a lot of fun this season. That’s what that was about and I think we’re ready to take that next step.”
First half – First half–FC Wichita, Kyei (Cantor); FC Wichita, Osterloh; FC Wichita, Sosa (Ten Eyck). Second half–FC Wichita, Ten Eyck (Hobson); FC Wichita, Kyei (penalty). Shots–Liverpool Academy 1-4–5, FC Wichita 8-2–10. Saves–Liverpool Academy, Vielma 5-1–6; FC Wichita, Hamersky 1-2–3, Weir 0-2–2.