We're a week away from the start of the MLS season and Sporting KC kicking off against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park next Saturday, March 2nd. Saturday, Sporting finished their final preseason game, beating Toronto FC 1-0 at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
Before the team heads to Philadelphia though, there are some roster decisions that have to be made before the season starts.
Currently Sporting KC has 27 players under contract for next year. Assuming those 27 all make the roster for the 2013 season, that leaves 3 spots open for supplemental draft picks and trialists.
Let's take a look at the positions first and where needs are.
No need here for Sporting KC. The team currently has 3 players under contract already with Jimmy Nielsen, Eric Kronberg, and Jon Kempin. The team has had Brian Sylvestre and Steve Spangler in camp, but I find it unlikely that either one of those 2 is displaying one of the 3 already on the roster.
The past few years I have complained about Sporting's lack of center back depth. This year I actually feel confident in KC's depth at center back. The team has starters Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin back as well as back up Lawrence Olum, who can also play in the midfield. The team has also added two more center backs this year, Ike Opara in a trade with San Jose and Yann Songo'o. That depth should be a good start for KC with them having 3 competitions during the season this year.
On the wings KC is once again set with starters with both Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic returning this season. KC has lost their primary back up for both sides though with the trade of Michael Harrington. The team also released Korede Aiyegbusi who filled in on the left wing as well. On the left KC has moved forward from Harrington and look to have found a suitable replacement in Josh Gardner who can play left back or left midfield. They also have Bobby Convey who spent a short while at left back during preseason as well.
On the right things looked a little more questionable. After Myers, the next most likely candidate to start appeared to be home grown signing, Kevin Ellis who has one competitive appearance for KC in their 3-0 win against the Chicago Fire PDL team in the US Open Cup in 2011. After Ellis it was last year's supplemental draft pick, Kyle Miller, who has rotated between defense and forward while playing with the reserves.
Sporting though looks set to address the lack of depth here through one of their trialists. Mechack Jerome of Orlando City has spent most of preseason with Kansas City and has gotten plenty of action in preseason, especially with Myers' quad injury that kept him out for a little while. Rumors last week were that Kansas City were going to attempt to sign the Haitian to a contract. I'd be more shocked at this point if he is not signed to a contract with KC.
KC also had supplemental draft pick, Brian Fekete in camp through at least a portion of the camp in Florida, but he hasn't appeared in any of the later preseason games, and even showed up on Orlando City's roster for a game.
Kansas City lost two starters from their midfield from the end of last season, Julio Cesar has moved on to Toronto FC while Roger Espinoza has made his way to the English Premier League and Wigan Athletic. KC though looks to be remaining strong in midfield. With the addition of Benny Feilhaber and last season's summer signing of Oriol Rosell look to help ease the loss of those two. There's also US national team midfielder, Graham Zusi, who could also see time at forward for Kansas City. The team also has starter Paulo Nagamura returning along with Peterson Joseph who showed well in the playoffs against Houston. Also returning this year is Michael Thomas, who the team picked up in preseason last year. The team also has Mikey Lopez already on the roster having drafted the Generation Adidas player in this year's Super Draft, although he is currently with the US U20 team.
In the first round of the supplemental draft, KC drafted another midfielder, Christian Duke from San Diego. Duke was from Kansas City's Juniors system, but did not spend enough time with the club while he was in college to qualify as a home grown player. Similar to Miller last year I see Duke making the roster as a bench player.
Another potential signing for Kansas City is Adama Mbengue. Another player from Orlando City that has trialed with KC, the 19 year old Senegalese player has split time during the Disney Pro Soccer Classic with both KC and Orlando. He could certainly be a guy that could be looked at as a potential developmental talent for Peter Vermes to build up.
Supplemental draft pick Mike Reidy is listed on the team's preseason roster as a midfielder, but he's spent time all over the field in KC's preseason games, similar to what we saw from a number of players last year in reserve games.
Kansas City has plenty of options at forward right now. Sporting is returning CJ Sapong, Bobby Convey, Dom Dwyer, and Soony Saad. The team also has Jacob Peterson and Teal Bunbury, but both of them will miss the start of the season due to injuries, Bunbury likely won't be back until the summer due to his ACL tear. Also among the forwards is the team's new designated player, Claudio Bieler.
Not included in the list of 27 players at this time is Kei Kamara. Kamara's trial with Norwich City will have him miss games until May before his potential return. So that's something that the team must keep themselves mindful up as they finalize the roster. If they fill all 30 roster spots now they will have to waive someone if Kamara's move to Norwich isn't made permanent.
Sporting has also had Nick Zimmerman on their preseason roster, but the former New York and Philadelphia forward has not made an appearance in any of Kansas City's preseason games.
First it's not a forgone conclusion that Sporting isn't going to waive anyone still under contract at this time. A player like Kevin Ellis, who has gotten a grand total of 75 minutes this preseason could be a guy that could find himself on the chopping block. Same goes for a player like Kyle Miller.
But for simplicity reasons right now, let's assume that KC isn't going to waive anyone, Sporting has just the three roster spots open, but one of those could eventually need to be filled by Kamara should he return from England in May.
Of those three spots, I think two will definitely be filled by players currently in camp. I expect Jerome to be signed to be Myers' primary back up at the right back position. I also think that KC is going to sign another local player in Duke to add depth to the midfield.
That'd leave KC with one unfilled roster spot. I could see KC going either way with the final spot. I could see them filling it, at least for the short term with a player to provide more depth. On the other hand if Vermes doesn't see enough from one of the players currently in camp. With the CONCACAF Champions League not starting until August, and the US Open Cup rumored to not be starting for MLS teams until May 28th, Sporting isn't going to have multiple competitions to deal with in Kamara's absence. So they may sit with the one roster spot open for at least the beginning of the season and continue to monitor Kamara's loan spell at Norwich.