Wednesday evening brought an end to Stoke City’s three game tour of America. The trip will have undoubtedly raised the profile of the club across the pond but the primary purpose was to build up fitness and to utilise the friendly matches to try out new partnerships and strategy ahead of the Premier League starting on August 18.
Defeat to Columbus Crew and a narrow victory against Orlando City didn’t set the pulses racing as poor performances in both fixtures left many fans frustrated, having stayed up into the early hours of the morning to watch online.
Last night’s 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City, who currently lie second in the MLS Eastern Conference behind Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls, gave reasons to be optimistic as the club’s fifth Premier League campaign draws closer.
Kansas City admittedly played a weakened side but Stoke managed to work the ball well in both halves and in turn allowed the team to create far more goal scoring opportunities.
Kenwyne Jones and Wilson Palacios shone in the first-half with both looking in better physical shape than at any stage last season. Jones used his physical strength, as he should, to his advantage to link-up play with the midfield and looked more effective than his strike partner Peter Crouch. Palacios showed promise after his stop-start season last year by dictating play in the Stoke midfield.
Matthew Upson showed his reliability as a solid back-up defender looking untroubled throughout, despite seeing his defensive partner changed on three occasions. Jon Walters, playing on the right-wing, also looked sharp and caused problems after a well earned break from last season’s mammoth season for club and country.
It was clear to see that TP had worked on shape before the game and it proved difficult for Kansas to break his side down. At the other end Crouch, Jones and Walters all showed a bit of rustiness in front of goal but that should hopefully return with more ball work and game time before our opening game against Reading two weeks on Friday.
With the club returning from the US on Friday three more friendlies await as Pulis starts to fine tune his team. With the addition of a few signings including the proposed move of Geoff Cameron from Houston Dynamo TP can continue to take the club forward.