Thursday, December 03, 2015

Season Review - Forwards - Lack of Depth Hurts KC in 2015

Finishing my move up the field as I do my season review of Sporting Kansas City's 2015 season today we look at the forwards for Kansas City in 2015.

Offensively 2015 was a very successful year for Kansas City, in all competitions KC scored 63 goals, which is one of the highest totals in team history. Last year KC relied too heavily on a single player in Dom Dwyer, and while his 24 goals is an impressive feat, the team's second leading scorer only having five goals in 2014 was not. KC addressed that in 2015 by bringing in Hungarian international, Krisztian Nemeth. Despite missing time while Hungary qualified for the Euros, Nemeth finished second on the team in goals, scoring 10 league goals, adding another five in the Open Cup, and scoring one playoff goal. While Nemeth was scoring 16 across all competitions, Dwyer still had a successful season, scoring 17 goals in all competitions, including the club's first hattrick since 2010, scoring four against Dallas in the fifth round of the Open Cup. While those two had good seasons up top, unfortunately the rest of KC's front line struggled in 2015. The likes of Bernardo Anor, Connor Hallisey, Jacob Peterson, and Graham Zusi combined for just three goals and eight assists in league play. The lack of help on the wing also hurt in terms of service to Dwyer and Nemeth. Designated player, Zusi, has to shoulder most of the blame for that simply because of his contract status. His five league assists are his fewest since he became an every game starter back in 2011.He finished with just one more assist than the likes of Jalil Anibaba and Roger Espinoza who both played at least eight fewer games and are not expected to be one of the main providers of the offense.

The players

Bernardo Anor - The club's first additions of the 2015 season, Anor was acquired from the Columbus Crew for allocation money shortly after the season ended. After scoring six goals in 2014 for the Crew there were hopes that he'd be able to provide some punch for Kansas City's offense. Unfortunately Anor struggled in his first start for the club on opening day against New York. After that he was resigned to substitute appearances until an ankle injury kept him out from early May until September. Upon his return he made a number of substitution appearances and three starts for KC but finished with just 483 minutes played, 0 goals, and 0 assists. At this time Anor will be returning for the 2016 season as he is currently under contract for Kansas City.

Dom Dwyer - As I stated above, Dwyer had a solid, if unspectacular campaign, at least compared to last year, scoring 12 league goals and adding five in the US Open Cup for a total of 17. That's good for a tie for the third most in a single season with Eddie Johnson for Kansas City. Not a bad season but there are a lot of people that still aren't happy with Dwyer and would love to see him shipped to Orlando. Many site the ability for Nemeth to play in the middle as a reason for it, but unless KC has a player that can pick up Nemeth's slack out wide, any sort of movement on Dwyer seems like a net loss at this point for KC. Unless a move is made this offseason, either somewhere within MLS or abroad, Dwyer should easily jump from sixth on KC's goal scoring chart with 36 league goals to second, as he only trails Davy Arnaud and Josh Wolff by seven for that spot.

Connor Hallisey - KC's first pick in the 2015 draft didn't quite have the season that his fellow first round picks, Saad Abdul-Salaam and Amadou Dia had. Hallisey played the fewest minutes of the three, just 516 minutes, recording one assist as KC ran over Dallas 4-0 earlier this season. Late in the season Hallisey struggled to even make the bench, appearing just three times in the game day 18 after September started. Two of those were starts on either side of the US Open Cup final. I don't think KC is going to give up on him after just a season, but he seems a prime candidate to spend next season with the Swope Park Rangers on loan.

Krisztian Nemeth - Announced at the same time that Kansas City signed Luis Marin; Nemeth was considered the less "needed" of the two players as KC desperately needed a goalkeeper. Nemeth was thought by many fans to mainly be a backup for Dwyer and expected a winger signing to come before the season started. Instead Nemeth eventually established himself as the starter on the left wing for Kansas City. His ability to cut in from the left and fire a shot into the far post was on display multiple times this season for KC. He just seemed to have a knack for picking out that far corner. Whether it is in Houston in the 4-4 draw, Philadelphia in the US Open Cup final, or Portland after his dazzling run, Nemeth seemed to be able to pick out the far side of the net with stunning accuracy. KC picked up Nemeth's option, but has apparently attracted interest abroad after his play for both KC and Hungary, while locally Nemeth is apparently looking for a pay raise. Holding onto Nemeth long term is going to be difficult especially if he goes to the Euros next summer and does well there. KC may have helped re-invigorate his career but may need to look for the next one soon.

Jacob Peterson - Peter Vermes' jack of all trades, Peterson has played all over the field for Kansas City during his tenure. This year he was mainly lined up either as a wide forward or occasionally as a center forward. That's where he scored his lone goal this season, as the center forward in KC's 3-1 win on the road in Toronto. Unfortunately while Peterson was a jack of all trades, he's really a master of none. He got a lot of dislike from fans this year, and while some was justified, not all of it was. A lot of the fan vitriol came from the fact that he was the first attacking option off the bench of KC most of the time. I don't think there are many teams worried that the game is going to change a whole lot when they see Peterson standing at midfield. But the fact that he was in that position had more to do with KC not getting a reliable attacking option off the bench.

Graham Zusi - KC's second designated player really didn't live up to the billing in 2015 for KC. He produced just two goals and added only five assists, his lowest output since becoming a regular start for Kansas City in 2011. Added an assist in the playoffs and another goal and assist in the US Open Cup. The question for 2015 with Zusi is can he regain the form he had before the 2014 World Cup. Last year the thought was just exhaustion from the short offseason and World Cup run, but his play never picked up in the 2015 season. He was outshone by Benny Feilhaber on set pieces as Zusi's seemed to always go too long for anyone to get onto or right to the goalkeeper while Feilhaber seemed to be more consistently dangerous with his chances. A number of fans have grown frustrated with Zusi over the course of the season, especially because of his pay, but he gives many other options for KC and I'm not ready to give up on him yet.

Looking Towards 2016

Robb Heineman in a recent interview already stated one of the things the club needs to address in 2016, attacking depth. Heineman mentioned that there was a need for a dynamic sub towards the end of the season that wasn't really there. The inclination there would point to an attacking minded substitute off the bench. That is a very big need for KC up top heading into next season, having someone on the bench that has a better potential to score off the bench than the players that KC had playing that role in 2015. If they wanted to they could look at someone like Chad Barrett, who recently had his option declined by Seattle. While most KC fans I think would loath that move, but he has scored 56 goals in his MLS career, more than anyone else on KC at this point. Although I'm not sure that he would fit Vermes' system. But it's a thought of one player currently available.

The next thing that KC needs to do is make sure they hold onto Nemeth up top. The Hungarian international will miss about a month or so of the season if he is called up by Hungary for the Euros, but KC will likely have to fight a little bit to keep him through this winter after a successful first season in Kansas City. Hanging onto him is important because of the pressure that he took off of Dwyer last season that allowed him to be productive. I'd rather have another season where Nemeth and Dwyer share the load than a season like 2014 where KC was overly dependent on a single player.

1 comment:

Ky Shorb said...

I am not sure that Jacob Peterson is a "viable" attacking option; faulting the bench for not being one either is not really a justification. The kitchen sink was more productive than Jake. I think digging anyone out of the locker room would have stood a better chance than just going with the status quo. With 15 goals in nearly a decade of play as a striker is a bad investment. His career stats are the equivalent of a marginal two year total that would get nearly every other player sent off.