On Saturday, during Sporting Kansas City's 2-1 victory over San Jose Earthquakes, I found myself embroiled in some serious Twitter beef with the extraordinary Mike Kuhn, to which I regrettably had to respond, "I have a comeback, but it's way too long for Twitter" at the time.
Thus, the idea for a brand new Talkin' Touches feature was born: the GIFtapes - Jimmy Medranda edition.
The premise: certain players in soccer — or, even within a particular team — find themselves polarizing figures among fans and media alike. Medranda, Sporting KC's position-less, do-everything-well-but-nothing-brilliantly winger/midfielder/fullback, is one such player. Deployed as a leftback for the majority of the 2016 season, the 23-year-old Colombian was a revelatory bright spot in an otherwise dim campaign.
Through the first three games of 2017, Medranda has been Peter Vermes' first-choice option to start on the wing opposite Gerso Fernandes, splitting his time 50-50 (roughly) between the left and the right.
While some grow frustrated by the handful of moments each game where quality and incisiveness from an attacking player may lack in the final third, it's important to remember one thing: in Vermes' system, he'll forego an extra 5-10 percent of attacking ceiling — let's say, just for this argument's sake, it's Latif Blessing, even though we've little to no evidence thus far to prove as much — in favor of someone who'll provide defensive cover and perform proper rotations, and above all else, never lose sight of his individual function as one small part of the overall gameplan — you guessed it, that's Medranda, just as it was Jacob Peterson before him — always and forever.
With that said, below you'll find more than a handful of moments from Saturday's win over San Jose in which Medranda performs a defensive action that so few players in the league — let alone this team — can muster from his spot on the wing, or showed more attacking chops than he's given credit for (in my humble opinion). It's impossible to see everything a player does over the course of a game — especially home games (from your seats, not ours; we can see literally everything, everywhere, at all times) — without staying up past 4 a.m. to re-watch the game, so that's exactly what I did.
Jimmy Medranda, the attacker
Precisely the type of penetrating pass you don't expect Medranda to make, and one that goes unnoticed because Benny Feilhaber pulls his shot wide.
Winning the second ball is everything in soccer, especially when playing with a lead. That's the simple part for Medranda. The juicy bit is leaving Victor Bernardez on one knee at the halfway line, before running him ragged after a 40-yard recovery run at a dead-sprint pace.
Tight space, controlled first touch, forces a defender to commit. If Dom Dwyer takes up the space Bernardez departs, it's a goal-scoring chance. Instead, he peels off laterally and does Florian Jungwirth's job for him, essentially marking himself out of the subsequent ball.
Jimmy Medranda, dogged defender
Two things to notice right away: 1) Medranda starts this clip five or 10 yards inside his own half; 2) Seth Sinovic gets sucked way inside, telling San Jose rightback Nick Lima to make a gut-busting run and over lap on that side of the field. Medranda recognizes the run before it happens, matching the rookie stride for stride over 40 yards, and makes the vital tackle (foul called or not called). Look at the space and time Lima has to collect the ball and pick out his cross at the exact moment Medranda slides in from behind. There's a lot of both; he's a good crosser; and Chris Wondolowski is headed for the near post.
Anibal Godoy, one of the league's standout players in Weeks 1 and 2, has been almost completely anonymous to this point, but he's leading the counter into acres of space for the first time all game. Unbelievable smarts shown by Medranda, who's a full 15 yards off to Godoy's right, to recognize the developing danger, to make the recovery run, swipe the ball, and start a counter to the counter the other way.
This one's simple, and often goes unnoticed. Lima's way too casual with his first touch, and Medranda pounces. He gets a foot to it, and they're chasing the ball 20 yards upfield, toward San Jose's goal. David Bingham's clearance is hit straight to Ilie Sanchez, headed to Benny Feilhaber, scooted wide to Gerso Fernandes, and results in a decent chance and a shot on target.
30 minutes left, Sporting still a goal to the good, and everybody's sitting a little deeper with an eye toward clogging passing lanes and soaking up pressure. Medranda's the de facto leftback in the above clip. There's nothing special about the way he closes Lima down all the way to the sideline, but a grown-man separation of man from ball, followed by a clearance that finds Dwyer at the center circle, and forces Bernardez into a foul.
On their own, none of the above sequences are game-winning plays made by Medranda, but when you consider what could have been on a number of decisive moments over the course of a game, you realize some of the "small things" that are so often the difference between one and three points.