Continuing the look through the roster and moving up the field, it's not time to take a look at the defense. Every player that played minutes for KC in competitive games in defense this past year have returned for the upcoming season. It gives KC stability in the position, which is key with a new goalkeeper in net.
Center Back Current Depth Chart
1. Matt Besler
2. Aurelien Collin
3. Ike Opara
4. Lawrence Olum
5. Erik Palmer-Brown
Unsigned factor: Peter Schmetz
The top three are as you'd expect. One of the best center back pairings in the league in Besler and Collin anchor the center of defense, with Opara being an extremely solid back up. Opara should get plenty of time this year with Besler spending time with the national team and Collin likely to pick up at least one suspension over the course of the season. From there things get a little murky. Teenager Palmer-Brown has gotten more time at center back this preseason than Olum, but I'd guess if Vermes needed to start one in a game it'd probably be Olum at this point. The other factor is current unsigned third round draft pick, Schmetz. If KC were to sign the German his position on the depth chart would be interesting, or if he'd be heading to one of our USL-Pro affiliates.
Right Back Current Depth Chart
1. Chance Myers
2. Mechack Jerome
3. Kevin Ellis
A fairly straight forward list as you'd expect for Sporting KC. With Myers re-signing with the club earlier this offseason he remains atop the list of KC's depth char.t Behind him is Haitian international Jerome. While his minutes dropped off as the season progress, he's still likely to remain ahead of Ellis. KC's second home grown player is in a big year for him. He's only played in two MLS games so far in his career, and entering his third season he should really be pushing Jerome to be Myers' back up.
Left Back Current Depth Chart
1. Seth Sinovic
2. Josh Gardner
3. Chance Myers
4. Kevin Ellis
Another straight forward selection at number one, another player that spent time with the US naitonal team, Sinovic will remain as the first choice selection at left back. Behind him is one of the more polarizing players in the last few years on KC's roster. Gardner had a poor performance in KC's last preseason game, but his performances have been better since he stopped playing as a winger in KC's system. Behind Gardner are two players who are predominately right backs, but can play left. Myers played on the left against Dallas this past year while Ellis also filled in on the left when needed.
With the defense here are a few questions.
Can the defense keep up their stellar record without Nielsen behind then?
The back line of Myers, Collin, Besler, and Sinovic are 33-8-9 when they start together. So far that record has come with Jimmy Nielsen behind them in net. Can this foursome keep up the record with a new goalkeeper behind them? Nielsen's style as a goalkeeper and as a leader fit in well with the way that KC's back line played. With a goalkeeper that controls his box more, will KC's back line adapt as well?
Can Opara continue to be a key contributor?
Much is going to be expected of Opara this year, especially in late May and early June when he'll be expected to take over in the center of defense for Besler who should be away with the US national team. The former number three overall pick in the draft has struggled with injuries throughout his MLS career. In fact last year, starting 15 games and playing in 18 were both career highs for the center back. KC will need him to stay healthy and contribute defensively when Besler is gone or Collin is suspended.
Will Palmer-Brown see the field in KC this year?
KC's 16 year old academy product signed in the 2013 season and has been impressing with Sporting and with the US youth national teams. With the continued rumors or a deal with Juventus and rumors that the deal is incentive based, the young center back could see some time with KC this year. With KC playing games on four different fronts before the playoffs (league, US Open Cup, and two different segments of the CCL) there are a number of games, and plenty of time for him to get his feet wet. If not in one of those competitions than I'm not sure he'll see time this year. With his current age I'm not sure that Vermes sees a loan to Oklahoma City or Orlando as being the best move for him at this point in his career.