Monday, May 30, 2016

Sporting Drawn into Group C for Champions League

Tonight CONCACAF held their draw for the 2016-2017 CONCACAF Champions League. Sporting Kansas City learned their opponents in this year's competition, they'll face one familiar foe and one brand new opponent. Sporting Kansas City were drawn into Group C for the tournament and will face off against Trinidad and Tobago side Central FC and fellow MLS side, Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

The Trinidad side qualified for this year's tournament by winning the 2016 CFU Club Championship held from February through May of this year. Central FC defeated fellow Trinidadian side, W Connection in the finals to win the tournament. This will be the first time that Kansas City has played a team from the Caribbean since the Wizards took on the same W Connection back in 2002 when the competition was the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The Wizards won their series with W Connection 3-0 on aggregate in route to their semifinal appearance that season.

The other opponent will be a very familiar one for Kansas City, as they have already played the Whitecaps two times this season and will play them a third in late August, so Kansas City will have at least five games against the Canadian champions by the time the season is done. The Whitecaps qualified for this year's tournament by winning last year's Canadian Championship beating the Montreal Impact in the final. These games will be the first time that Kansas City and Vancouver will meet outside of MLS league games. So far Kansas City has lost just once to the Whitecaps and hold a 5-1-3 record all time against them.

There are certainly some easier draws that Kansas City could have gotten, Vancouver will be very tough, depending on how they play the tournament, but Kansas City should be able to get through if they can improve their form (and potentially add some pieces over the summer before the CCL kicks off). While they'll have a long trip to Trinidad they do avoid most of the more hostile environments that they could have been drawn with.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sporting Chasing Former FC Dallas Goalkeeper?

Sporting Kansas City is currently in a difficult situation in league play after failing to win for the ninth time in their last 10 games on Friday night against DC United. The failings of the current roster has led to plenty of speculation as to who Kansas City could bring in this summer as reinforcements to help the team turn their season around. Reports out of Peru talk about a potential reinforcement in an area that most KC fans wouldn't have expected. The reports link Kansas City with former FC Dallas goalkeeper, Raul Fernandez.

The goalkeeper for the Peru national team spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons with FC Dallas, appearing 47 times in that stretch. He recorded 11 shutouts and had a 16-18-12 record for Dallas over that stretch. Since leaving Dallas, he has returned to Club Universitario de Deportes in Peru.

It'd certainly be a surprising move if KC did in fact pursue Fernandez considering how well current starter, Tim Melia played last year. That said, Melia has struggled this year and has made a few mistakes that have led to goals (including Friday against DC). In his final year in MLS, Fernandez only made $10,000 more than Melia currently makes for the team now.

While it's not an area of need, having interest in another proven goalkeeper isn't necessarily wrong for Kansas City. That said, if I was looking to address the needs of the team, goalkeeper wouldn't be the area that I would turn to first to correct.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hajderovic Playing in the PDL - Former SKC Wizards Update

Thanks to Swope Park Rangers General Manager Kurt Austin, we know where Sporting KC draft pick, Faik Hajderovic is playing right now. The fourth round draft pick has signed on to play with the Saint Louis FC U23 team in the PDL. While they're the U23 team for the USL side, Saint Louis FC U23 actually plays in Springfield, MO. The USL side purchased the PDL rights of the Springfield Synergy and rebranded them as their U23 team. The reason for this likely has to do with the fact that St. Louis already has a PDL side, the St. Louis Lions, founded in 2006. The U23 team played their first game of the season last night against the U23 side of the Oklahoma City Energy, falling 4-2.

Here is the rest of this week's update.

Active without a club or unknown
Vicente Arze
Jamar Beasley
Brian Fekete
Michael Kafari
Chris Konopka
Kyle Miller
Victor Munoz
Akeem Priestley
Yann Songo'o

Jalil Anibaba - Houston - Came off the bench and played 77 minutes in Houston's 1-0 loss to Chicago.
Teal Bunbury - New England - Dressed but did not play in New England's 4-2 loss to Dallas.
Servando Carrasco - Orlando City - Started and played 90 minutes in Orlando's 2-1 win over Montreal.
Aurelien Collin - New York - Started and played 90 minutes in New York's 1-0 win over Chicago. Started and played 90 minutes in New York's 7-0 win over NYCFC.
Herculez Gomez - Seattle - Came off the bench and played 24 minutes in Seattle's 1-0 loss to Colorado.
Michael Harrington - Chicago - Did not dress in either of Chicago's games.
Jack Jewsbury - Portland - Came off the bench and played 4 minutes in Portland's 4-2 win over Vancouver.
Kei Kamara - New England - Started and played 90 minutes in New England's 4-2 loss to Dallas.
Eric Kronberg - Montreal - Did not dress in Montreal's 2-1 loss to Orlando.
Mikey Lopez - NYCFC - Did not dress in NYCFC's 1-1 draw with Toronto. Started and played 90 minutes in NYCFC's 7-0 loss to New York.
Yura Movsisyan - Salt Lake - Started and played 89 minutes, scoring a goal in Salt Lake's 3-1 win over KC.
Amobi Okugo - Portland - Did not dress in Portland's 4-2 win over Vancouver.
CJ Sapong - Philadelphia - Started and played 90 minutes in Philadelphia's 1-0 win over DC.
Tyson Wahl - Columbus - Did not dress in Columbus' 0-0 draw with Toronto.
Sal Zizzo - New York - Came off the bench and played 4 minutes in New York's 1-0 win over Chicago. Started and played 90 minutes in New York's 7-0 win over NYCFC.

Bernardo Anor - Minnesota (loan) - Started and played 70 minutes in Minnesota's 4-2 loss to Indy.
Stefan Antonijevic - Tampa Bay - Dressed but did not play in Tampa's 2-1 loss to New York.
Marcel de Jong - Ottawa - Started and played 90 minutes in Ottawa's 2-0 loss to Edmonton in the Canadian Championship. Started and played 90 minutes, scoring a goal in Ottawa's 1-0 win over Jacksonville.
Mechack Jerome - Jacksonville - Did not dress in Jacksonville's 1-0 loss to Ottawa.
James Marcelin - Carolina - Did not dress in Carolina's 1-0 loss to Edmonton.
Rauwshan McKenzie - Oklahoma City - Dressed but did not play in OKC's 2-1 loss to Fort Lauderdale.

Christian Duke - Swope Park - Started and played 90 minutes in Swope Park's 4-1 loss to Rio Grande Valley.
Cyprian Hedrick - Oklahoma City - Started and played 120 minutes in OKC's 0-0 (10-9) shootout win over Mississippi Brilla. Started and played 90 minutes in OKC's 1-0 win over San Antonio. Started and played 90 minutes in OKC's 3-1 win over Real Monarchs.
Ryan James - Rochester - Started and played 62 minutes in Rochester's 7-0 win over Southie FC. Came off the bench and played 26 minutes in Rochester's 2-1 loss to Orlando.
Alex Martinez - Charlotte - Did not play in Charlotte's games.
Tony Rocha - Orlando - Started and played 90 minutes, recording an assist in Orlando's 2-1 win over Rochester.
Michael Thomas - Oklahoma City - Started and played 120 minutes in OKC's 0-0 (10-9) shootout win over Mississippi Brilla. Started and played 90 minutes in OKC's 1-0 win over San Antonio. Started and played 90 minutes in OKC's 3-1 win over Real Monarchs.
Yomby William - Richmond - Started and played 90 minutes in Richmond's 4-0 win over Aromas Cafe. Started and played 90 minutes in Richmond's 0-0 draw with Louisville.

Adnan Gabeljic - San Francisco - Started and played 83 minutes in San Francisco's 2-1 win over Ventura County.
Faik Hajderovic - St. Louis U23 - Started and played 60 minutes in Saint Louis' 4-2 loss to OKC Energy U23.

Pat Healey - Baltimore - Offseason.
Mike Jones - Dallas - Offseason.
Boris Pardo - Missouri - Offseason.

Korede Aiyegbusi - Siah Jamegan - Iran - Offseason.
Scott Angevine - YPA - Finland - Started and played 90 minutes in YPA's 4-2 loss to VIFK.
Claudio Bieler - Belgrano - Argentina - Started and played 90 minutes in Belgrano's 1-0 win over Rosario Central.
Omar Bravo - Chivas - Mexico - Offseason.
Reinaldo Brenes - AD Belen Siglo XXI - Costa Rica - Offseason.
Sunil Chhetri - Bengaluru - India - No game this week.
Jorge Claros - Alajuelense - Costa Rica - Offseason.
Daneil Cyrus - W Connection - Defeated Club Sando 5-2.
Toni Dovale - CD Leganes - Spain - Dressed but did not play in Leganes' 3-2 loss to Huesca.
Pablo Escobar - Jaguares de Córdoba - Colombia - Did not dress in Jaguares' 2-0 loss to Rionegro Aguilas.
Luis Gil - Queretaro - Mexico - Offseason.
Jeferson - Madureira EC - Brazil - Offseason.
Will John - RoPS - Finland - Started and played 69 minutes in RoPS' 1-0 loss to VPS.
Igor Juliao - Ferroviária - Brazil - Offseason.
Igor Kostrov - Slavia-Mozyr - Belarus - Started and played 90 minutes in Slavia's 1-0 win over Neman Grodno.
Luis Marin - CD Palestino - Chile - Offseason.
Neven Markovic - KS Lechia Gdansk - Poland - Offseason.
Michal Mravec - RoPS - Finland - Dressed but did not play in RoPS' 1-0 loss to VPS.
Krisztian Nemeth - Al-Gharafa - Qatar - Offseason.
Erik Palmer-Brown - Porto (loan) - Portugal - Offseason.
Pablo Punyed - IBV - Iceland - Started and played 90 minutes in IBV's 3-0 loss to Vikingur Reykjavik.
Oriol Rosell - Vitoria (Sporting Club de Portugal)  Portugal - Offseason.
Brendan Ruiz - DJK Don Bosco Bamberg - Germany - Lost 7-6 to 1.FC Sand.
Soony Saad - Pattaya United (BEC Tero Sasana) - Started and played 90 minutes in Pattaya's 6-0 loss to Ratchaburi.
Peter Schmetz - Wuppertaler SV - Germany - Started and played 90 minutes in Wuppertaler's 3-1 win over TSV Meerbusch.
Kevin Souter - Deveronvale FC - Scotland - Offseason.
Martin Steuble - Ceres-La Salle - Philippines - Offseason.
Milos Stojcev - Atromitos - Greece - Offseason.
Matt Taylor - Saarbrücken - Germany - Dressed but did not play in Saarbrucken's 3-0 win over Kickers Offenbach.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday After Stats

Benny Feilhaber made his 100th league appearance for KC, he's the 30th player to hit that mark.

Sporting has topped their loss total at home for all of last season.

Dom Dwyer's goal was his 27th at home in league play for KC, tying him with Kei Kamara and Davy Arnaud for second all time on that list.

It was his 34th at home in all competitions, tying him with Arnaud for second on that list.

Roger Espinoza started his 139th game in all competitions for KC, breaking his tie with Chance Myers for 17th all time on that list.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Besler and Zusi Called Up for Copa America

Two of Sporting Kansas City's designated players are heading out on national team duty after tonight's game against Salt Lake. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi were called up by the US Men's National team for this summer's Copa America Centenario.

With MLS taking a break for much of the tournament, Besler and Zusi will only miss two games during the group stage. They'll miss next Friday's game against DC United as well as a game on June 2nd against the LA Galaxy. Should the US advance, they're also likely to miss the US Open Cup game on the 15th and could miss the game against Dallas on the 19th.

The good news for KC is they do have players that can step up in Besler's and Zusi's absence. Ike Opara can easily slot in at center back while Jimmy Medranda, Justin Mapp, or Connor Hallisey could all step in at Zusi' wing position.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Match Day 14: The Monkey Gone, Time to Move Forward

For the first time in five weeks Sporting KC finally got a win on Sunday with a 2-1 win over Orlando City. Now with that monkey off of Sporting KC's back, the club needs to move forward and start to string some results together. This is especially important because while still early, Kansas City is below the red line in terms of playoff positioning and have played the most games in MLS so far this season (along with Dallas and Vancouver). Arguments can be made about the points in hand already, but KC needs to start to pick up points, especially against teams that are currently ahead of them like tomorrow's opponent, Real Salt Lake.

Salt Lake comes to Kansas City for their third of five straight road games for RSL. So far Salt Lake has not scored on the road trip, suffering a pair of 1-0 losses to Colorado and Houston over the past few weeks. Salt Lake though does have a win in KC this season, winning 2-1 at Children's Mercy Park to hand Kansas City their first loss of the season. This time around Salt Lake should have their veteran players like Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, and Javier Morales all available for selection which could cause more problems for KC.

Sporting finally got the win but there are still plenty of questions to be asked about the team, most pressing is probably the continued isolation of Dwyer Island up top. With Brad Davis and Graham Zusi being the regular wing strikers, even when they're inverted their first instinct is not to cut inside but to get down the line for a cross. KC's attack has really missed that cut whose mindset is to cut in first. When KC brought on Jacob Peterson they got someone who was willing to play with that mindset and it paid off with a goal and assist for Peterson. Tomorrow though I'm not sure that Peter Vermes switches things up from the lineup that started the game against Orlando, he could replace Jimmy Medranda if Seth Sinovic is ready to go, but he may stick with the Colombian at left back for another game.

Davis - Dwyer - Zusi
Espinoza - Feilhaber
Medranda - Besler - Coelho - Abdul-Salaam

Number to Remember - 5 - That's the number of consecutive league games Kansas City has gone without a win against Real Salt Lake in the series. In those five games, Kansas City has scored three goals, all three coming in losses as KC has gone 0-3-2 in that stretch. Only one of those goals has come at home as well.

Key Match Up -KC attack vs Nick Rimando - Sporting KC had over 30 shots against Orlando City and 13 of those were on target. Against Rimando, one of the league's best, Kansas City will need to be much better with their chances. While Salt Lake's defense hasn't been great, Rimando can win games on his own with his saves.

PREDICTION - Salt Lake isn't playing well, but I'm not 100% ready to believe that Kansas City is out of the woods. Orlando's defense has been less than stellar for them and Sunday was basically a must win, and KC played like it taking the game to Orlando for basically all 90 minutes. KC isn't going to get 30 shots again, and if they some how happen to they need to score more than two. Salt Lake away from home again certainly won't help then, I think KC will be able to take all three points from this game.

SKC - 2 (Dwyer, Feilhaber)
RSL - 1 (Plata)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Player Salaries Released

The MLS Players' Union today came out with their yearly release of player salaries. For Sporting Kansas City their salaries went up by about $1 million from the 2015 season. Included in the raises were the likes of Tim Melia getting a decent pay bump, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and Benny Feilhaber both getting $50,000. The biggest bump looks like it went to Dom Dwyer, whose base salary jumped $100,000 from 2015 when he made $400,000 to 2016 where he's making $500,000. Here is the full list; the first number is the base salary while the second is the player's guaranteed compensation for 2016.

Abdul-Salaam, Saad - $63,000 - $76,750
Anor, Bernardo - 132,624 - $132,624
Besler, Matt - $700,000 - $732,624
Coelho, Nuno - $275,000 - $375,000
Davis, Brad - $355,000 - $355,000
Dia, Amadou - $51,500 - $51,500
Dwyer, Dom - $500,000 - $618,750
Ellis, Kevin - $72,000 - $75,150
Espinoza, Roger - $800,000 - $800,000
Feilhaber, Benny - $400,000 - $412,187.50
Hallisey, Connor - $63,000 - $76,750
Kann, Alec - $63,000 - $63,000
Kempin, Jon - $82,750 - $82,750
Mapp, Justin - $224,070 - $239,070
Medranda, Jimmy - $63,000 - $63,000
Melia, Tim - $150,000 - $152,500
Mustivar, Soni - $200,000 - $200,000
Myers, Chance - $200,000 - $225,000
Nagamura, Paulo - $225,000 - $225,000
Olum, Lawrence - $105,000 - $115,000
Opara, Ike - $125,000 - $131,250
Palmer-Brown, Erik - $65,000 - $65,500
Peterson, Jacob - $137,750 - $144,625
Quintilla, Jordi - $100,000 - $109,525
Rubio, Diego - $300,000 - $333,000
Salloi, Daniel - $51,500 - $51,500
Sinovic, Seth - $105,000 - $112,666.67
Zusi, Graham - $700,000 - $732,102.27

In base salary Kansas City tops out at $6,309,194 and in guaranteed compensation $6,751,824.44, around $3 million above the $3,660,000 salary cap for MLS. That puts Kansas City with the seventh highest payroll in all of MLS, although they have the highest payroll of any team that does not have a player making $1,000,000 or more. To be fair, $485,000 of that difference between the cap and Kansas City’s payroll is made up in the salaries of KC's three DPs base salaries, Besler, Zusi and Diego Rubio. But the rest of the salary difference comes from all the extra "stuff" that MLS has to allow teams to spend over the salary cap. For example, Kansas City technically has two players on their roster, Dwyer and Espinoza, who would qualify as designated players based on their salary, but neither player is recognized as such by the team or the league. If these numbers are correct (and has been discussed year after year you do have to take these numbers with some grain of salt), KC would be using the newer "targeted allocation money" to likely pay down the cap hit by Dwyer and Espinoza so that they do not count as designated players. That extra almost $400,000 gets closer to the cap, but not quite. There are other methods that KC is also likely using to pay down players, including maybe Espinoza or Dwyer if KC didn't want to use all their TAM. The team could be utilizing their general allocation money to assist in paying down the salaries of certain players on the team to keep them under the cap. The other possibility has to do with Brad Davis. Davis was acquired by KC in a trade with Houston, at the time most people expected Davis to take a pay cut (he took a $45,000 one from his salary last year), people also expected that the Dynamo were likely going to be covering at least a portion of Davis' contract, which would have also helped Kansas City to have some cap relief.

Looking at the list there are certainly a few numbers that stand out in terms of over paying/under paying. Amadou Dia continues to be a bargain at the price Kansas City is paying him at. At the same time, Seth Sinovic took a pay cut to come back to Kansas City, a good bit of business there by the team to get a deal done for less money that allowed Sinovic to stay in KC and KC to keep a good starting left back. Jimmy Medranda so far has been the brightest spark in KC's offense, but since this is the first time he's really shown it, his price isn't that surprising, now if he could just continue his breakthrough and get some goals/assists. KC's two free agent signings though have been disappointing to this point, Justin Mapp and Paulo Nagamura both are making north of $200,000 and have played a combined nine minutes so far this season. Certainly not the level of play that you want from players you're paying that much for. You're also likely going to see plenty of comments about Zusi's price tag along with Dwyer and Myers. The best bit of business KC may have done was with Nuno Andre Coelho who has been a rock in defense for Kansas City this season. While a $275,000 base isn't cheap, he's certainly proving so far to be worth every penny.

Sporting to Open US Open Cup Defense on the Road

If Sporting Kansas City is going to defend their 2015 US Open Cup, they'll have to start their run in unfamiliar territory. For just the third time since 2009, Sporting Kansas City will have to play a US Open Cup game on the road when they'll travel to either Minnesota or St. Louis for their fourth round US Open Cup match on June 15th. The game will be the first time that KC has played a US Open Cup proper game on the road against someone other than the Philadelphia Union. Since a 2009 trip to Seattle, Sporting KC has played just two of 16 US Open Cup proper games on the road, both against the Union (2012 semifinal and 2015 final). They've also played one US Open Cup qualifier against the Houston Dynamo at Texas A&M back in 2011.

The pair of opponents will be familiar to Kansas City though. Sporting has played both Minnesota United and St. Louis FC in the fourth round of each of the last two US Open Cup games, both wins for Sporting. Back in 2014 Sporting KC took advantage of a Cristiano Dias red card to defeat United 2-0 while last year after St. Louis topped Minnesota in the third round KC got a header goal from Graham Zusi to see them past a stingy St. Louis FC side 1-0 on their way to winning the US Open Cup.

No matter the match up KC get, it won't be easy. Minnesota is building their NASL roster ahead of their move up to MLS next season and will be looking to impress in that game. Meanwhile St. Louis will really utilize the cross state rivalry to really build up the game (and that's something plenty of Kansas City fans are looking forward to). And while it is great to have drivable road trips to do, part of the magic of the US Open Cup and cup competitions in general is playing teams you don't normally play. When you're only ever grouped with one of three teams each and every year it does lose just a bit of its magic, at least for me. The fact that it is on the road this time does add some intrigue to it though.