Saturday, March 05, 2016

Sporting KC Season Preview - Outlook

On the eve of the 2016 MLS season kicking off it's certainly hard to contain excitement for the game and the season. As with most sports there is always that feeling of optimism heading into the new season, feeling that if things just go your way, if you can avoid some key injuries and get lucky at just the right time at the end of the season you'll be the ones that are lifting the trophy celebrating the title. That feeling may not be any greater than in MLS, where with all of its parity a team can go from missing the playoffs to lifting MLS Cup in a single season.

For Sporting Kansas City it doesn't have to be that hard for them, the club made the playoffs in 2015 and it took a penalty kick going off of both posts in a shootout against the team that would eventually lift MLS Cup. KC addressed arguably their biggest need heading into the 2016 season, when they acquired Nuno Andre Coelho to add some depth to KC's center back position, which has taken a beating over the past two seasons. They also kept some important parts from the 2015 season as well, re-signing Soni Mustivar to a new contract after he'd been named co-defender of the year in 2015. The club also looked to add more true wing play to their system in 2016 adding both Brad Davis and Justin Mapp to the roster to serve more balls into the box. On the other hand the club lost their second leading scorer, selling Krisztian Nemeth to Qatar in a situation that became a he said/she said of why he left. Hopefully the recently announced, but not yet official, signing of Diego Rubio will help in supplementing the goals that KC will lose from Nemeth. What he doesn't fill can likely be done by the committee of Davis, Mapp, and Graham Zusi scoring more than two this year.

With those additions and subtractions, KC currently sits with 26 players on their roster, two under the maximum roster size. The club will also likely be loaning a couple players to the Swope Park Rangers, with Jon Kempin and Jimmy Medranda being the prime candidates to at least start the season there. With the new rules about loans and call ups from the USL teams KC could very well keep spots open on the chance they need to utilize those loans, or if they feel that they want to sign one of them to the first team. With the roster as it currently is, here's a shot at the "best XI" for Sporting KC once the season starts (note this isn't the lineup I expect in the opener tomorrow considering KC's current injuries).

Davis - Dwyer - Zusi
Feilhaber - Espinoza
Sinovic - Besler - Coelho - Myers 

The big question for KC fans is how the club will do in 2016. I know there are plenty of people that are down on the club at this time, they don't feel the club has done enough to make the team better than it was last year. The pieces added may make up for the pieces lost, but the feeling seems to be that the club has not taken themselves to that next level while teams around them in the West have brought in players looking to improve their team even more. The big issue here is that like prior years KC has done their acquiring of players early, bringing in Davis and Mapp early in the offseason, Coelho was also an early addition before other teams really got going with their additions. This is one thing that has caused some concern, a case of "what have you done lately."

In the end though has KC done enough to improve on their chances for last year? For me I still feel that Kansas City is a playoff team, the team has added quality veterans to the team that will help to replace Nemeth's goal scoring. It'll be by committee, but the goals will come. That said, those same veterans could very well be KC's downfall. Kansas City has brought in six players so far this season, with Rubio being the seventh. Of those six players, four of them are 30 or older (Coelho, Davis, Mapp, and Lawrence Olum), and three of those four are expected to be impact contributors. Will Kansas City's veterans have enough fuel in the tank by the end of the season?

The talk at media day was about the changes in training and how the club doesn't want to reach "peak" fitness until the summer. So hopefully that will allow for some of the worries about the fitness of KC's roster with it's age to be negated, but we'll have to see.

For me, Kansas City makes the playoffs for the sixth straight season, but it will be close, KC will be in a dog fight to clinch one of the final playoff berths. And it will unfortunately be another early exit in the playoffs in 2016 for Sporting. I just don't feel that overall KC has done enough to get to that next level. The goal scoring, while it'll be okay, will be quite reliant on Dom Dwyer. And with KC picking up more true wingers to play on the wing, Dwyer is going to find himself much more isolated this season, which will limit his chances more.

No comments: