Thursday, March 19, 2009

Season Preview

So the first MLS game of the season has kicked off over on ESPN2, and with MLS back on my TV, the fact that the MLS season starts for the Wizards on Saturday has officially hit me and needless to say I am pumped. And with the season only 2 "sleeps" left I figured it was time to get in a quick season preview for the Wizards.

The Wizards bring in a roster that will look very similar to the roster the team had at the end of last season. Only 5 players were lost from the team last year, and the team has brought in 4 players to replace them. The first addition was forward Adam Cristman who was brought over from New England. Kansas City added two players to the roster from this year's SuperDraft, as Matt Besler and Graham Zusi have both made Kansas City's roster. Finally, the team signed Argentine midfielder, Santiago Hirsig who was last with San Lorenzo. Overall, I see this as a net gain for the Wizards considering the players loss.

Many teams in the Eastern conference look like they have done well to improve their teams. Toronto FC is one of those teams bringing in multiple new players again, including Dwayne DeRosario. Columbus has only really lost Brad Evans from their championship squad so they'll be strong again. It certainly won't be easy for Kansas City to push for one of the top spots in the East, but bringing back the strong nucleus from last year's team will certainly help. There are a few questions though heading into the season.

1. Who is going to score goals?
The Wizards only scored 37 goals last season, with Davy Arnaud leading the way with 7 goals. If KC wants to get further this season, they need to get more goal production, specifically from the forwards. Wizards forwards only scored 12 goals last season, with Claudio Lopez leading the way with 6. A full season with Josh Wolff playing with Lopez will likely help lead to both getting more goals this season. If each of them can score in the 7-10 goal range this season, the Wizards will be in decent shape.

2. Can the youth continue to improve?
Last season saw the Wizards bring along some very impressive young players in Michael Harrington, Jonathan Leathers, Roger Espinoza, and Kevin Souter to name a few. The beginning of this "bleeding of the youth" didn't drastically hurt the Wizards, in fact, the young players started to blossom as the season went on. All those players are back again this year and are joined by Zusi and Besler who will add more talented youth to the roster. These players are the future of the team, and them getting more time on the field will be important for not just this season, but 2010 and beyond.

3. Can the team stay healthy?
So far this answer is no, already KC starts the season with 3 players on the injured list in Cristman, Chance Myers, and Eric Kronberg. For KC to succeed this season they need to avoid injuries, especially to the spin of the team, if someone like Jimmy Conrad, Kevin Hartman, Davy Arnaud, etc. go down hurt, this team could really struggle this season.

Overall, while I'm looking forward to this season, I think KC can and will struggle at times. They have more depth with their young players than some of the "experts" know or admit. That depth will be tested this season with KC playing in 3 competitions. Can KC win the title this year? Sure if they get on a run, especially late they can take the cup. I just have some trouble seeing that happening though. I think KC is still maybe a season from really being able to compete with the talent that they have. KC will likely make the playoffs around the same spot they made it last year and the year before, maybe win the first round but lose in the conference finals.

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