Monday, February 29, 2016

Sporting KC Season Preview - Goalkeepers

We're less than a week away from the kick off of the 2016 MLS season for Sporting KC. This coming Sunday Sporting will take the field against the Seattle Sounders at Century Link Field on Fox Sports 1. With the season a week away it's time to take a look at KC's roster as it stands heading into the opener. At this time the team has 26 players on their roster, but that includes Canadian international, Marcel de Jong, who was not with the club at all basically since returning from national team duty with Canada for their friendly against the United States in early February. That number also doesn't include Bernardo Anor and Erik Palmer-Brown, who are both on loans for the entire season, and as such will not count against their roster spots. I'm going to take a look at the 26 man roster based on the positions the players play. Today it is the goalkeeping position.

Alec Kann - KC's newest goalkeeper was acquired by Sporting in the first stage of the re-entry draft this offseason. Kann looks set to be Kansas City's every game back up for Tim Melia based on Jon Kempin spending the majority of his preseason with the Rangers. Whether he'll actually be the one getting the minutes should Melia go down for an extended period of time will remain to be seen. Kann appeared 19 times for Saint Louis FC, started the Chicago Fire's final game of the 2015 season and performed fine there. He's got an unimpressive resume as a whole, but then again, so did Tim Melia last year.

Jon Kempin - Over the past two seasons, Sporting KC's first homegrown player, Kempin, has been expected to go out on loan for the whole season and get the valuable experience that he needs at this point to continue to develop his game to be a starter for the club. Unfortunately injuries to Eric Kronberg and Andy Gruenebaum forced his loan to Oklahoma City in 2014 to be cut short and in 2015 it was the emergence of Melia and Luis Marin heading back to Chile that caused him to be recalled from his loan to the San Antonio Scorpions. This year Kempin has spent the majority of his time with KC's USL team, the Swope Park Rangers, appearing in all but one of their preseason games in Tucson. I'd expect Kempin to be one of the players that gets loaned to the Rangers for the season, where he'll hopefully, finally be able to get a full season as a starter under his belt. And if Melia goes down again, he's a lot closer now and can float back and forth between Sporting and the Rangers than he could with his prior loans. The interesting thing to see will be whether Kann gets the minutes in things like the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, or if Vermes brings in Kempin for those games since the Rangers don't get to participate in the Open Cup.

Tim Melia - The breakout performer for Sporting Kansas City in the 2015 season, Melia had joined the club as a league goalkeeper in 2014 after all the injury issues the club had at goalkeeper, and earned himself a contract with the club to basically play the same position that Kann is this year, be the backup for the starter so that Kempin could go out on loan. When Marin had trouble adjusting to the style of play in MLS, Melia stepped in and established himself quite well in net. He finished 2015 with a 11-8-4 record, eight shutouts, and a 1.22 goals against average for Sporting. In 2016 he comes in as the established starter which should continue to build on the confidence that he got winning the job in 2015. He gives a strong presence back there that makes me feel as confident about the goalkeeping position as I have for KC since Jimmy Nielsen retired.

Overall confidence in the goalkeeping situation for Kansas City should be good. They have a solid starter in Melia that can win them points if it comes to that as we saw in the two regular season meetings against Portland in Portland in 2015. His immediate back up is a bit of an unknown with Kann simply due to his lack of first team action in recent years, but the club also has Kempin likely on loan to the Rangers in the same city, making it much easier if KC needs to call on him to replace Melia.

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