Skip to content

But was talent really the problem at Sporting Kansas City?

Dec 19, 2012, 3:33 PM EDT

Houston Dynamo v Sporting Kansas City - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

Looks like Sporting Kansas City’s really reeling from the loss of Roger Espinoza, right? They liberated Benny Feilhaber from New England. Claudio Bieler’s been brought in from Ecuador. They even took a flyer on former Earthquake Ike Opara. Who doesn’t like a defender who could probably dunk on an 11-foot rim?

Once Sporting exits this paralyzing post-Espinoza mourning, they may not have anything left to do. After an explosive start to the offseason, you don’t have to go far to read evaluations making Kansas City the league’s 2013 favorite (though two words for that: history; December).

No doubt Kansas City will be formidable, and coming off recent disappointments, we could see a very hungry team at Livestrong this season. But it’s instructive to remember that talent wasn’t Kansas City’s problem last year. This team placed four players on MLS’s Best XI, none of whom were Kei Kamara or Roger Espinoza. Add in talents like C.J. Sapong, Chance Myers, Seth Sinovic – players that would move right into the starting XI of most MLS teams – and you had a starting XI to rival those in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Salt Lake.

Yet like so many teams over the last eight years, Kansas City got Kinnear’d in the playoff. Houston knocked them out at the conference semifinal round. Whether it was the Dynamo coach’s approach or Sporting’s bad leg in Houston, the conference champs were knocked out by the fifth seed. In the process, the squad proved thin and, more worrisome, did not have an alternate way of playing.

That was the main worry all along. You heard if everywhere, some variation on “Yes, Kansas City’s good, but what happens if they have to come up with a Plan B?” We found out. As Houston build a big lead at BBVA Compass Stadium, Kansas City showed no ability to make the kind of tweaks that could have stemmed the tide.

And it’s not as if the roster couldn’t manage a tweak. The team consistently played a high pressure 4-3-3 setup last year, but it’s not hard to see a team that could shift Kamara and Sapong into a two-striker approach. Whether it would have worked or not is difficult to say, but these are the type of variations you need to adjust.

They’re variations like Kinnear having two formations at his disposal. They’re variations like Bruce Arena being able to start either Edson Buddle or Landon Donovan up top with Robbie Keane.

They’re Plan Bs.

So even though Benny Feilhaber’s been brought it, he might not actually be an upgrade over what the team’s lost. Claudo Bieler’s on board, which will almost certainly provide a few more goals, but Ike Opara’s probably won’t have a significant impact. Still, from an optimist’s perspective, these are all positive steps.

But a more positive step would be developing that Plan B. Will Feilhaber do more for that than Espinoza? Will Bieler provide more versatility than Sapong? Because right now in Kansas City, it’s less about talent and more about implementation.

Latest Posts
  1. Angel Di Maria gets love from Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Diego Simeone

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    Portugal Soccer Champions League Final AP

    Both Ronaldo and Ramos have gone to Madrid president Florentino Perez to ask him to keep Di Maria.

  2. Jozy Altidore is the happiest he’s ever been, says Gus Poyet

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Sunderland manager Gus Poyet believes United States striker Jozy Altidore is the happiest he has ever seen him.

  3. Malky Mackay and Iain Moody investigated by FA for ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ text messages while at Cardiff City

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Cardiff City - Premier League Getty Images

    Malky Mackay has been reported to the Football Association for being involved in a series of racist, sexist and homophobic text messages.

  4. WATCH: Kid asks Jamie Carragher if he was ever bitten by Luis Suarez

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT

    Jamie Carragher AP

    If Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher showed up to your training to sign autographs, what would you ask him?

  5. Mikel Arteta out at least two weeks with sprained ankle, will miss Besiktas clash

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Should age matter when evaluating a player's contract extension? Getty Images

    Arteta’s status means that Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini will be the holding midfield partnership against the Turks.

  6. UEFA Champions League Roundup: Porto and Zenit win, all others draw

    Aug 20, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT

    Hector Herrera

    Champions League play-offs continued on Wednesday with a series of tight contests headlined by a 1-0 victory for FC Porto at Lyon.

  7. Liverpool and AC Milan in talks over deal for Mario Balotelli

    Aug 20, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT

    Italy Training Session & Press Conference Getty Images

    Could Mario Balotelli be Liverpool’s answer to replace Luis Suarez?

  8. Vincent Tan ruins Malky Mackay’s chance of landing the Crystal Palace job

    Aug 20, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Charlton Athletic - npower Championship Getty Images

    Malky Mackay can’t escape Vincent Tan after Cardiff owner files report with FA that prompts Palace to withdraw managerial offer.

  9. Cristiano Ronaldo questionable for Super Cup second leg with back injury

    Aug 20, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    Will Cristiano Ronaldo’s back injury prevent him from playing the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup?

  10. Report: Warrior Football to be re-branded as New Balance in 2015/16

    Aug 20, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

    Warrior Shirt

    Liverpool fans can finally kiss goodbye that Warrior label but will that improve the designs?

  11. Preview: DC United, Montreal back in CONCACAF Champions League action

    Aug 20, 2014, 3:26 PM EDT

    Philadelphia Union v DC United - Disney Pro Soccer Classic Getty Images

    D.C. welcome Jamaican side Waterhouse to RFK, while Montreal head to El Salvador in CCL group stages.

  12. Marcus Rojo officially signs for Manchester United in $26.5 million deal

    Aug 20, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

    Source: Manchester United Source: Manchester United

    Red Devils finally land their man as Argentine defender signs five-year deal.

  13. Manchester United to pay Nani’s $8 million wages, in full, during loan spell

    Aug 20, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT

    Manchester United's Nani is challenged by Chelsea's Lampard for the ball during their English FA Cup quarter-final soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester Reuters

    Nani is being paid his Manchester United wages in full… to play for Sporting Lisbon.

  14. Unsung hero: Luka Modric signs new four-year deal at Real Madrid

    Aug 20, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Before! Before!

    The diminutive Croatian midfielder will remain at Real after proving himself in the Spanish capital.

  15. Queens Park Rangers sign Dutch international Leroy Fer in $16 million deal

    Aug 20, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT

    Source: Queens Park Rangers Source: Queens Park Rangers

    Fer, 24, is back in the Premier League as QPR capture box-to-box midfielder.

  16. Atlanta’s new MLS franchise has already sold 14,000 season tickets

    Aug 20, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    Don Garber AP

    Set to arrive in MLS in 2017, the league’s newest franchise has already sold a staggering number of season tickets.

  17. No Turkish delight for Arsenal: Ramsey sent off, Arteta injured, Wenger fumes

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Slaven Bilic AP

    Wenger: “It’s very difficult to understand but, in the second half, the performance of the referee was very bad.”

  18. Thomas Muller reveals he rejected “astronomical” offer from Manchester United

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-BAYERN MUNICH Getty Images

    Muller: “The amount that foreign clubs were offering me was astronomical. But Bayern are my club.”

Featured video

Top five PL goals, Week 1