Thursday, March 03, 2016

Sporting KC Season Preview - Forwards

Full disclosure, this was written earlier today before the Diego Rubio rumors, please keep that in mind.

To finish out the look at Sporting KC's roster we reach the front line. It's a very winger heavy front line with five of the seven being predominately wingers. The team still has the reported new #9 coming in "in the next few days" according to Peter Vermes, that should add some much needed depth to KC's center forward position. Should make it less likely that Kansas City would be forced to play with a false 9 again this season as they did a couple times last season with Jacob Peterson and Graham Zusi.

Brad Davis - MLS' active leader in assists and second in terms of appearances in MLS play. He's currently 11 appearances behind the active leader, Kyle Beckermann, who is the league's all-time leader in appearances. 10 appearances and he can pass second place, Steve Ralston. He's only 14 behind Landon Donovan for first all time in assists, although that may be a stretch to hit this season. Still KC's pick up of probably one of the more disliked opponents since the rebranding was an interesting pick up. But you can't deny that Davis still have the ability to play at this level last season. He has hit double digits in assists six of the last seven seasons and has scored at least four goals a season in that same span. He's not going to be a like for like replacement of Krisztian Nemeth on that left wing, but he'll certainly fill the gap in a different way.

Dom Dwyer - Most people have said that Dwyer had a "down year" in 2015, and considering his 2014 when he set a club record for goals scored, that's hard to argue, since he only scored 12 goals in league play in 2015. To be fair to Dwyer there though he also had more support in 2015 and didn't "need" to score 20+ goals for KC last year. With help from the likes of Nemeth and Benny Feilhaber both hitting double digits in goals KC got a more balanced attack that made them a better team in 2015. This year though, depending on the new forward brought in, more of the weight is going to fall on Dwyer's shoulders without Nemeth. Davis, Justin Mapp, and Graham Zusi are not going to be double digit goal scorers, and expecting Feilhaber to completely repeat his 2015 performance may be asking too much. With more true "wingers" on the wings though Dwyer should get better service in 2016 which he should be able to get on the end of.

Connor Hallisey - Probably the big winner of preseason this year for Sporting KC, Hallisey scored a couple goals, had a couple assists, and in the games I saw looked much more ready to contribute in 2016. Last year at times Hallisey looked frustrating with his pace and with taking players on. In preseason games this year I thought he looked much better, he'd beat players on the dribble, he was able to get to the end line and send in crosses, he just looked overall more dangerous in those minimal minutes than he did in his time last year. He's gone from a player I thought would spend the entire season with the Swope Park Rangers to one that I think could be a decent contributor to Sporting this year as a spark off the bench.

Justin Mapp - The first free agent signing in MLS history, Mapp missed most of preseason with a turf toe injury. Mapp like Davis will both spend time on the left wing this season. Mapp provides a bit more of the dynamic dribbling that Nemeth brought, but nowhere near the same level. Mapp though is a deceptive player that will provide some creativity in terms of the dribble. He's not a flashy signing, but if he can stay healthy he'll be a solid contributor for KC this year.

Jacob Peterson - If there was a prototypical type of Peter Vermes player, it would probably be pretty close to Jacob Peterson. Peterson isn't a flashy player, he'll play basically anywhere on the field he's asked, for KC he's basically played everywhere but in goal. He has a strong work rate that has seen him continue to get time on the field. The down side is that his hustle, work rate, and willingness only go so far, he's frustrating to many fans with his play and that leads to lots of frustration with Vermes for continuing to give him time. With more depth on the team this year, if they can stay healthy, Peterson should see a decrease in the number of minutes that he's on the field for Sporting.

Daniel Salloi - KC's "work around and within the system" signing, the 19 year old Hungarian homegrown player is KC's only other "true" forward on the roster along with Dwyer. Salloi last year scored seven goals and added four assists across 16 games in all competitions for Ujpest FC in Hungary. Salloi may be a prime candidate to make some back and forth movement between Sporting KC and the Rangers depending on the needs of Sporting at the time.

Graham Zusi - Zusi is coming off the worst year of his career since becoming a starter in 2011 he scored just two goals and added just five assists in league play. Questions of his healthy since the end of the 2014 World Cup have dogged him the entire time. He apparently spent a good portion of the offseason not even putting on soccer cleats. Vermes has talked highly of him being ready to return to form from before the 2014 World Cup and re-establish himself in the lineup. Zusi may be the big recipient of the addition of Davis and Mapp as he has a history of scoring goals by making those back post runs for crosses. With better crosses on the wing opposite him he may be able score a few more of those in 2016.

The big question for the forward line will be the goals, Dwyer will get his fair share of them, but where's the secondary scoring going to come from? None of the other forwards on the roster are big goal scorers, or at least not yet. If there's one need that really still needs to be addressed by Vermes and company, it's the goal scoring. Hopefully whoever the young forward is that Kansas City is close to signing is able to help pick up some of the slack. Compared to last year though I am much more comfortable with the ability of a substitution off the bench to make a difference offensively should KC need it, I feel like KC could at the very least have a spark.

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