Last week at home against the Chicago Fire was the midpoint of the season for Sporting KC. They currently sit on 26 points, second place in the Eastern Conference, 2 points behind leaders, DC United. That's the same number of points that the team had last year at this point of the season as well. With the half way point hit, here is a look at player grades for the first half of the 2014 season.
Matt Besler - A- - Has been limited to just nine regular season games so far this season for Kansas City with his call up to the US national team for the World Cup. Sporting's defense suffered the major injury hits after his departure to join the US tea. It's unclear at this time whether he'll ever play another game for KC, but he's been the solid defender we all know and love.
Claudio Bieler - D- - Bieler, Sporting's designated player has been a big disappointment for Kansas City this year. He's appeared in just eight league games for KC this year, starting three of them. He's scored just one goal and played 274 minutes. Yes part of that has to do with the success that Dom Dwyer has been having this season, but Bieler hasn't appeared in a league game for KC, since their 2-1 loss to Chicago on 5/18, a stretch of six league games. Yes he's had some injury issues lately, but a designated player shouldn't miss six games in a row unless all are due to injury.
Aurelien Collin - B+ - Collin has once again been a solid defender for Sporting KC and so far this season he's done a good job of keeping his yellow cards down, even though he did pick up his first red card this year. He missed some time with a hamstring injury, came back too early because of KC's other injury issues and re-injured his hamstring. This kept him out for a little longer but he's been solid since he came back from injury as well.
Toni Dovale - B - Has done well for KC, providing a creative option for Kansas City that's not Benny Feilhaber or Graham Zusi. He likes to use his left, but his right foot isn't a peg like Milos Stojcev's was. He's missed the last two league games after a violent conduct red card.
Christian Duke - INC - Has spent the season on loan to Oklahoma City, recently suffered a stress fracture that will keep him out of action.
Dom Dwyer - A - Has been exactly what Kansas City has needed this year. Dwyer is one of the league leaders in goals scored. His goal scoring has been one of the reason Claudio Bieler has had trouble getting off the bench. Dwyer is the forward that works perfectly in the high pressure system that Peter Vermes likes to use.
Kevin Ellis - B - Probably the surprise of the first half of the season. Started out at right back for Kansas City for an injured Chance Myers and scored the game winner in KC's CONCACAF Champions League game against Cruz Azul. Spent a short time on loan to OKC before being recalled after KC's injury crisis in the back hit. Since then he's been a consistent starter for Sporting KC. Mainly in central defense he's played quite well as an emergency center back partnering three different players over that stretch as well.
Benny Feilhaber - A- - Has been very good for KC in the midfield. He's officially Sporting fit, and before his shoulder injury against Houston he'd missed minimal minutes for KC. He's been the main creator for KC in the midfield. And when KC sold Oriol Rosell and lost Lawrence Olum to the Kenyan national team Feilhaber filled in as Kansas City's deep lying midfield. And while he cut down on his contributions to the offense, it did allow KC to not miss as much with it's build up out of the back with the sale of Rosell.
Josh Gardner - INC - Was waived early in the season. Started one league game and also played against Cruz Azul before coming out with injury.
Andy Gruenebaum - INC - Has only appeared in Sporting KC's two US Open Cup games. With the injury to Eric Kronberg, Gruenebaum is going to get plenty of opportunity to play in the second half of the season.
Mechack Jerome - INC - Another one of KC's wingbacks that didn't survive with the team after the loss down in Mexico to Cruz Azul. Appeared in only two MLS games, one of which was a start.
Peterson Joseph - INC - Has not even practiced since collapsing in practice in the 2013 playoffs. The assumption is that his playing career is over.
Igor Juliao - B- - Has been good offensively for Sporting KC coming from the right back position. His defensive positioning still requires some work. With Chance Myers' season over, he is going to get plenty of time to improve.
Jon Kempin - INC - Has spent the season on loan with Oklahoma City. He's back with Sporting now after the injury to Eric Kronberg.
Eric Kronberg - B+ - I've had some question regarding some of Kronberg's decision making this season. At times I felt he over committed either for crosses into the box (see Seattle) or in 1v1 situations (see vs Cruz Azul). I feel though that Kronberg has improved as the season has gone along. He's done better with his decision making as well which is a plus. He also leads the league in goals against average. His injury comes at the wrong time for him as he was really looking comfortable there.
Mikey Lopez - INC - Is back with the team now, but spent most of the first half of the season on loan to Orlando and later Oklahoma City.
Alex Martinez - B- - His release was a surprise to me, and it still is. I thought he'd been playing decently for KC, mainly as a sub, but he'd been doing what was asked of him. Or at least that's the way it seemed.
Jimmy Medranda - INC - Has just four appearances in the first half of the season, only one of those starts, way back against Dallas in the second game of the season. He's now headed to OKC on loan.
Victor Munoz - INC - His debut in the US Open Cup was cut short against Minnesota with injury. Up to that point though he'd looked less than impressive for Kansas City.
Chance Myers - B - Missed the beginning of the season for KC with an injury. Came back and played well for Kansas City in the back line. Pushed to center back in an emergency situation for KC and preceded to blow out his Achilles.
Paulo Nagamura - C+ - Has played in 14 of KC's 17 league games in the first half of the season. Has done a good job of helping KC continue their style of breaking up opposition attack early on up the field. His down side has been when he's really gotten into the attacking half of the field. Yes he's scored a goal this year, but it seems like he'd been getting into the attacking third much more often than Benny Feilhaber has, and Nagamura doesn't have the ability to play that final ball that Feilhaber does.
Lawrence Olum - C+ - Has become KC's starter in the deep lying midfield role with the sale of Oriol Rosell. He's a decent midfielder and does well there in breaking up plays and sitting in just in front of the defense. His passing though has been quite poor and has been very apparent when compared to Rosell's passing there.
Ike Opara - INC - Played just three league games before injuring his foot and having season ending surgery.
Erik Palmer-Brown - B- - The 17 year old Sporting KC academy product was thrown into the fire with all of KC's defensive injuries. And while his first performance against Chicago couldn't have gone much worse giving up a penalty kick and getting red carded, he did settle down and was consistent for Kansas City in defense partnering Kevin Ellis. For the moment he appears to have lost the starting spot to Ellis with Aurelien Collin returning, but Palmer-Brown has a bright future.
Jacob Peterson - B- - He's not going to score a lot of goals, but he's the type of player that Peter Vermes loves. He does not quit and he has a great work ethic. While that's certainly a good thing to have, forwards need to score goals. He does get bumped up to a B- because of his play as an emergency right back for KC right before the World Cup break. He did the simple things right and did a good job there when KC needed help there badly.
Oriol Rosell - B+ - His grade actually improved after his departure simply because of what KC is missing out of the midfield since his departure. His passing was key to getting KC's offense running. He's certainly going to be missed in the middle of the field.
Soony Saad - B - He's come on recently and been more of a contributor in the last few games. He's done well, scoring in three straight games in all competitions. His problem has always been his defensive play and in Peter Vermes' high pressure system, the forwards need to be doing a lot of defending as well. Saad though appears to be catching onto that, specifically against the Portland Timbers in the US Open Cup, he chased a Steve Zakuani all the way down the field. Yes he ended up fouling him, but it was good to see the recovery run from Saad.
CJ Sapong - D - Has missed time with injury like most of KC, but has also been stuck on the bench unable to get much time. The former rookie of the year has just not looked like he's had the fire that he had when he first came into the league. He has been getting a little more time lately with Claudio Bieler having an injury. You would hope he'd take advantage of this time and get a couple goals.
Seth Sinovic - A- - The lone member of KC's traditional starting back four who has not missed a game due to call ups or injuries so far this season. He's only missed two games in all competitions, back early in the season when KC was balancing MLS play and the games against Cruz Azul.
Sal Zizzo - C+ - Has done a decent job on the wing for Sporting KC, but I think more as expected of him production wise, specifically in the assist department. He's involved a lot in the play but would like to see him setting up more.
Graham Zusi - B+ - KC's other World Cup veteran has had a good first half, playing in 10 games and starting nine. His numbers are not surprisingly down a little based off of that fact. But he's still always a threat for KC. On Sunday vs Chicago in his return he gave KC that extra push they needed offensively, unfortunately the finishing touch wasn't there for anyone.