The new year has started and with the new year come new wants and wishes for the year. With that in mind here are my wants and wishes for 2016.
1. Silverware - Always the main goal, more trophies, more painting the wall for Sporting Kansas City. In the past two years all three professional soccer teams in KC have won at least one trophy, fans have been a little spoiled lately, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't want more of them.
2. Sporting KC address center back issues - I like Ike Opara, I think he's a very good and capable center back when he's healthy. But that is the main problem, since coming into the league in 2010 he's made it through exactly one season without it ending early due to injury. And that one season was 2013 when he wasn't even the primary starter for Sporting KC. His replacement last year, Kevin Ellis performed admirably, but he's not a starter full time at this level for me.Erik Palmer-Brown could be the future at that position, but I'm not sure he's ready to be the starter there at 18, although I'd love for him to have a Matt Miazga type season. The team's other two potential center backs currently, Lawrence Olum and Amobi Okugo both seem likely to stay in midfield, although I feel Okugo's best games with the Philadelphia Union were at center back. Whether it's within MLS or elsewhere, KC needs to find someone that can consistently be the starter next to Besler at the MLS level.
3. Keep Krisztian Nemeth in Sporting blue - This is going to be a two part wish, the first part is going to be going on now as the transfer window has reopened in Europe. There's been talk that Nemeth had some interest from teams in Europe after a season that saw him score 16 goals across all competitions for Kansas City. While Robb Heineman has said he expects Nemeth to be back in KC this year things could change if a team that really needs goal scoring comes calling. The second part of this will come this summer, which is usually a more active window for European teams when it comes to buy. Combine that with this summer's European Championships that Nemeth is likely to play in with Hungary, more offers could come in at that time. But keeping Nemeth in Sporting blue has to be a priority. Last year he took a lot of pressure off of Dom Dwyer, allowing both to play better.
4. Sporting advance from their CCL group - Sporting KC is back into the CONCACAF Champions League in 2016 and after their last trip in 2014 ended with an elimination by Saprissa at the group stage I'd like to see Sporting get into the knock out phase this year. In the 2015 group stage ended with either an MLS team or a Mexican team on top of their group, I'd hate for KC to be the one that potentially breaks that streak.
5. Jon Kempin and Erik Palmer-Brown both play 15 plus games - I wanted to make this 20 plus games but I'm going to make this a little lower. I don't mean that they play 15 plus games for Sporting KC this year, although that would speak wonders to what Peter Vermes sees in them, but I mean 15 plus games either for Sporting or for the new Swope Park Rangers. The key thing for both Kempin and Palmer-Brown at this point is to get them games. Kempin's games last year were cut after KC cut Luis Marin loose and recalled Kempin. And with Palmer-Brown being a teenager it's not surprising that Vermes wanted him closer to home where he could be more in control of his development. With the Rangers now in town and Vermes able to work directly with Marco dos Santos and observe practice more easily, there's no reason that these two should not be getting a lot more games now.
6. Swope Park Rangers have successful first season - Sporting KC's USL affiliate is set to debut in the USL this season playing at the Swope Soccer Village. While the team will certainly have some focus on winning considering who is in charge of the team, the main focus of their success should be on developing players for the first team. So far of the five players that the Rangers have signed, the oldest is 26 year old goalkeeper Zac Lubin, and the average age of he five is 23.8. Developing the younger talent like Kris Tyrpak and Johnny Grant could be a big boost to the first team.
7. US national team has a respectable performance in the Copa America Centenario - My interest in the US men's national team over the last two years plus has really started to wane. Last year's Gold Cup was a big let down as was the loss to Mexico in LA for the chance to make the Confederations Cup in 2017. At this point plenty of fans are frustrated with the performance that the team has put out under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. I'm not stupid enough to think that a poor performance here would get Klinsmann fired, and I'm not one to completely turn on the US hoping they fall flat on their face in the hopes that Klinsmann is fired. That said I want a respectable performance out of the US. For me that means at least making it out of their group, meaning finishing in the top two. They'll avoid Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina in group play which will help, but CONMEBOL is full of strong teams that will cause the US plenty of problems.
8. Missouri Comets get past Baltimore Blast - Last year the Blast ended the Comets season in the MASL semifinals falling in both games and losing their headers at home in the final game. This year the two teams again appear to be on a collision course to meet in the playoffs. The two will get a chance to see each other before the playoffs though as the teams meet three times in the final month or so of the season, with two of those games taking place at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
9. FCKC recover from losing four regulars - The Blues are going to have some rebuilding to do after winning back to back NWSL titles. FC Kansas City has lost a number of their starters from this past season and will have a number of holes to fill. The team is losing US women's national teamer, Lauren Holiday, and defenders Amy LePeilbet and Leigh Ann Brown to retirement . They'll also be losing Amy Rodriguez at least for the 2016 season as it was announced that Rodriguez will miss the 2016 season as she is pregnant with her second child. The team still has the likes of Becky Sauerbrunn, Heather O'Reilly, and Nicole Barnhart which will certainly help FCKC, but Vlatko Andonovski will have his work cut out for him as FCKC looks to go for the three peat.