We're at the midpoint of the 2013 MLS season. KC has completed half of their 34 game schedule. Currently the team sits in a tie for 3rd place in the Eastern Conference with 26 points and a 7-5-5 record. It's been a drop from the team's level last year, although KC has lost just as many games as they did in the 2012 season. The difference is that KC had 3 more wins that this year have been draws for KC (the 0-0 draws vs New England and Chicago, the 1-1 draw at DC where the referee incorrectly ruled a goal offside, or the 2-2 draw with Dallas where KC blew a 2 goal lead, can be pointed to as big dropped points).
Here are some grabs for players at the mid-point of the season.
Matt Besler - B+ - Sporting's defense has struggled of late, but Besler's had another solid season for KC in the back. He's continued to be the rock of KC's defense. Finally last year people started to see him as the rock of KC's back line. Now it's time to prove he can stay at this level.
Claudio Bieler - A- - KC's leading scorer through the first half of the league season, with 8 league goals and 9 in all competitions. He's doing what he was brought in to do, score goals, and he's done it scoring goals that KC would have missed last year, just more composed finishing. The lack of an A is because of incidents during games where I thought the disciplinary committee would step in. So far he's avoided suspension.
Teal Bunbury - INC - Has only made 2 appearances since returning from his ACL tear.
Aurelien Collin - C+ - Collin has been solid for Kansas City this year as you'd expect, but he's been flirting the line between controlled and dangerous too often this season.
Bobby Convey - INC - Played only 3 games for KC then was traded to Toronto. His play in the first two games saw him benched and he made only 1 appearance after that.
Christian Duke - INC/B - A split grade for Duke. He hasn't appeared for KC, but has been a solid contributor for Orlando so far this season.
Dom Dwyer - INC/A+ - Another split grade for Dwyer with his loan to Orlando. But it's hard to imagine Dwyer's loan going any better. He scored 15 league goals in 13 games, and added another 3 in 3 Open Cup games. Good enough to earn him a recall to the first team.
Kevin Ellis - INC - Made his first start for the club in the Open Cup this year and his first league appearance, but not enough to warrant a grade.
Benny Feilhaber - D- - The game against Montreal where he picked up a pair of assists is what keeps this move from being an F for the first half of the season. Feilhaber was supposed to come in and be the attacking midfielder while Graham Zusi stayed on the wing. That hasn't happened, first Feilhaber lost his spot to Peterson Joseph and then to Zusi.
Josh Gardner - D - Gardner was expected to be left back depth for KC. He earned his one start of the season there. He's spent more time at the left wing position. And other than 1 cross against Chivas has failed to impress. His last appearance was in the Open Cup against Orlando and played poorly enough to be pulled at half time. He hasn't been on the bench since.
Mechack Jerome - A- - Jerome was expected to just be Chance Myers' back up this season and get a handful of appearances. Unfortunately for Myers he's struggled with a quad injury, but that's opened the door wide for Jerome who has done a good job filling in at right back that even allowed him to work his way back onto the Haitian national team.
Peterson Joseph - B- - Joseph continues to improve under KC. He won the starting midfield job from Feilhaber earlier this season before missing the last month with Haiti. He'll miss most of this month as well while still on duty for his national team, which is a bit of a blow at the club level as he could continue to get time here.
Kei Kamara - B- - Kamara came back from his loan when few people (myself included) thought he wouldn't return. Most of us figured Norwich would make the deal permanent. Kamara was slow to get up to speed when returning, whether that was from lack of cohesion or disappointment in no permanent move. He's started to come on lately though, scoring 2 against the Crew.
Jon Kempin - INC/B - Another double grade. He did a solid job in net for Orlando after Miguel Gallardo went down injured, until he picked up an injury himself. He's gotten little time since returning from injury though.
Eric Kronberg - INC - Just two Open Cup appearances for KC's back up.
Mikey Lopez - INC - Only 1 appearance for KC's first round pick, he's spent a good amount of time away with the US U20 team.
Kyle Miller - INC - No appearances for the KC product this season.
Chance Myers - B- - Myers has struggled with injuries a bit this season after staying healthy for most of the past two years. He's been normally solid when he's been on the field though.
Paulo Nagamura - C+ - KC has changed the way the midfield plays this year, all 3 of KC's midfielders get more freedom to rotate and move around the midfield. Without a Cesar type in back, both Nagamura and Oriol Rosell have failed to really lock that role down when they rotate back there.
Jimmy Nielsen - C - Not that Nielsen's had a bad season, but I think expectations were higher after his goalkeeper of the year performance last year. He's made the second fewest saves of regular starters this year. Only 1 regular starter in goal has a lower save percentage than Nielsen's 62%, and that's Carlo Cudicini for LA. Which isn't good enough for KC.
Lawrence Olum - C - Has mainly been coming in off the bench for minimal minutes through the season. But lately, specifically the Columbus game he showed well playing in Julio Cesar's old role.
Ike Opara - B - Has done very well filling in for Besler and Collin when they've been injured or on national team duty. I have no complaints about his play, he's done quite well.
Jacob Peterson - C - Has done a decent job of providing a spark for KC since returning from his injury. The lack of goals or assists from him are the big knock. He has the work rate there just needs to be more on the end product.
Oriol Rosell - C - Has looked very good at times for KC, but has also looked like a 20 year old spending his first time as a consistent starter. I think he looked much better with Olum playing a Cesar type role against Columbus.
Soony Saad - B+ - Saad hasn't gotten a ton of time, just 204 minutes in league play, but has looked quite well when he has played, especially the game against Columbus. He missed a chance for more games in the Open Cup when he was away playing with the Lebanon national team.
CJ Sapong - D+ - He's been in a slump this year, badly. He didn't really have a sophomore slump, it's just hit him in his 3rd season. He only has one goal and one assist, KC will need more out of him in the second half of the season.
Seth Sinovic - A- - His error against Columbus aside, Sinovic has again been extremely solid for Kansas City in the back. He's arguably been KC's most consistent performer on the back line.
Yann Songo'o - INC/B - He was Orlando's leader in minutes played when his contract was terminated by mutual consent and he went back to Spain.
Michael Thomas - INC - Only one appearance for Thomas this year.
Graham Zusi - A- - Three goals and five assists for Zusi He's been solid no matter where he plays. His new contract shows the clubs commitment to him going forward and his signing it shows his confidence in the club to help him continue to develop and not stand in his way when a good offer comes along.