Skip to content

Major League Soccer team previews: SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Feb 28, 2013, 8:55 AM EST

SKC logo

Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. First kick is March 2.

No. 2 in the East is Sporting Kansas City:

Significant additions and subtractions: No, Kei Kamara and Roger Espinoza aren’t the biggest names ever to use MLS as a springboard to something bigger. But good heavens, it will be so very difficult to replace these two around Sporting Park. Probably more so than many casual MLS fans believe. SKC fans may have a better understanding of their fierce dedication to the serious work involved in Peter Vermes’ demanding, high pressure ways. (Which is why they are both playing in the world’s top league now, the English Premier League.

Julio Cesar is also gone, but Paulo Nagamura probably has a good hold on that spot.

The big additions started with DP striker Claudio Bieler, who didn’t have a fantastic preseason. Vermes says not to worry.

Not long after, the team added talented two-way midfielder Benny Feilhaber in a trade with New England.

Ike Opara, newly acquired from San Jose and probably in need of a career reboot, will provide center back depth.

Strengths: If there is a better all-around back line in MLS, right, left and center, someone will need to show me. Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin and Seth Sinovic are all among the top seven in ProSoccerTalk’s rankings at their position. (Besler, Myers and Sinovic are all top four.) Behind them, goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is No. 1 in our goalkeeper rankings. So, yeah, there’s a lot of “strong” in all that.

Feilhaber cannot replace Espinoza’s midfield industry or tackling, but the 2010 U.S. World Cup veteran is a superior passer and finisher.

Pressure points: SKC has looked unstoppable, if just a little short of striking power, over the last season and a half of league matches. But the playoffs have proven far more problematic; Vermes’ men fell to Houston in each of the last two years.

Speaking of missing some magic near goal, fans around Sporting Park are still trying to figure out how more than one of those chances didn’t go in as Houston clinched the home-and-away series last fall.

Bieler, who scored reliably in previous club stops in Argentina and Ecuador, needs to duplicate that proficiency. He could be the proverbial “final piece” for a club that’s stacked and packed in goal, in defense and in midfield and not bad out on the wing. (Better on the wing if Zusi is out there, even if it’s not his best spot.)

The schedule will be packed unlike it has been ever before for SKC, with CONCACAF Champions League to deal with, plus the title defense in the U.S. Open Cup.

Bobby Convey? We’ll see. He sure needs to find the next gear.

source: Getty Images

Difference maker: There’s reason to believe Graham Zusi’s career arc remains on the rise. He has seven assists two years ago and then 15 last year. If he goes any higher, Zusi could be flirting with records. His technical ability, fitness, desire and vision through the midfield are all above average. His set-piece delivery is well above average. Zusi may not be Major League Soccer’s best at any one thing, but he’s so well-rounded and so good at a lot of things, it’s no wonder he’s now a U.S. national team regular.

Potential breakout player: Can we call Feilhaber a “breakout” player? U.S. fans know so much about him already, and plenty believe he should be a larger part of Jurgen Klinsmann’s plan with the national team. But for whatever reason, chemistry issues most likely, he sometimes has trouble assimilating. Presumably, Feilhaber understands that fresh chances won’t keep coming forever.

Bottom line: Vermes’ team took a little step back with Espinoza’s move to Wigan and Kamara’s loan to Norwich City (which could easily become an outright  purchase given his early success with the Canaries). But Bieler and Feilhaber are the equalizers in terms of maintaining the collective level of talent at Sporting Park. The Eastern Conference champs could defend their title if the finishing improves. It’s really that simple.

(MORE: full roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League Preview: West Ham v. Crystal Palace

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:50 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-FACUP-CRYSTAL PALACE-LIVERPOOL Getty Images

    Preview of West Ham-Crystal Palace match airing live on NBCSN this Saturday morning.

  2. Watching a UEFA Champions League game with US star Geoff Cameron

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:16 PM EST

    Cameron admires, and has beaten, Arsenal. Cameron admires, and has beaten, Arsenal.

    In our latest with Stoke City and U.S. national team star Geoff Cameron, we sit down in his house and watch Arsenal’s clash with AS Monaco.

  3. WATCH: PST Extra previews Liverpool vs. Manchester City

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:55 PM EST

    PST Extra - Feb. 27

    The PST Extra crew dissect the key areas as Liverpool host Man City on Sunday.

  4. Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Sunderland

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:25 PM EST

    Swansea City v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch United vs. Sunderland live on NBCSN and online via Live Extra at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.

  5. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 27

    Feb 27, 2015, 12:44 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch all the Premier League games during Week 27.

  6. Sepp Blatter wants 2022 World Cup final to be played on December 18

    Feb 27, 2015, 12:01 PM EST

    Blatter: “The World Cup will not go on until the 23rd, definitely not.”

  7. Europa League last 16 draw: Everton head to Ukraine; Spanish, Italian clubs clash

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

    The Toffees get a tricky test in Kiev, while Italy dominates the last 16 with five clubs.

  8. Jack Wilshere undergoes latest surgery, as Arsenal return is delayed

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:20 AM EST

    Wilshere AP

    Gunners midfielder goes under the knife once again.

  9. Report: Chelsea join Manchester United in chase for Nathaniel Clyne

    Feb 27, 2015, 7:37 AM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Will Clyne stay at Saints or move to one of the big boys?

  10. Toronto FC unveil new primary jersey for 2015 MLS season

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:37 PM EST

    Photo credit: MLSsoccer.com Photo credit: MLSsoccer.com

    It’s red — lots of red — and “All For One.” Do you dig it?

  11. Ahead of Capital One Cup final, Thibaut Courtois admits he’s never been in a PK shootout

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:10 PM EST

    Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC Getty Images

    Petr Cech has been in plenty of PK shootouts for Chelsea, but Courtois has never done it.

  12. CONCACAF Champions League: D.C. United battered by Alajualense, 5-2

    Feb 26, 2015, 10:32 PM EST

    Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United

    *sigh* Another MLS team gets hammered in CCL, and we’re (probably) down to one last hope.

  13. Keller, Hejduk, Conrad headline 13 new eligibles for National Soccer HOF

    Feb 26, 2015, 8:15 PM EST

    Kasey Keller & Frankie Hejduk, USMNT Kasey Keller & Frankie Hejduk, USMNT

    It’s a who’s-who of USMNT, USWNT and MLS stars who are now eligible for the U.S. Soccer HOF.

  14. World War II bomb found, defused near Borussia Dortmund stadium

    Feb 26, 2015, 6:51 PM EST

    Signal Iduna Park, Borussia Dortmund Getty Images

    A 550-pound British bomb was found near Dortmund’s stadium on Thursday. That’s a little bit crazy.

  15. Chelsea signs five-year, $300-million Yokohama jersey sponsorship deal

    Feb 26, 2015, 6:13 PM EST

    Juan Cuadrado, Chelsea FC Juan Cuadrado, Chelsea FC

    Five years, $300 million — the going rate for prime real estate on a top PL team’s jersey.

  16. Europa League roundup: Tottenham, Liverpool out; Everton, La Liga sides advance

    Feb 26, 2015, 5:05 PM EST

    Romelu Lukaku, Everton FC Getty Images

    The Premier League’s nightmare week in European competition continued on Thursday.

  17. Besiktas 1-0 (1-1) Liverpool: Arslan makes, Lovren misses final PK as Reds go out of Europe

    Feb 26, 2015, 3:44 PM EST

    Atiba Hutchinson, Joe Allen AP

    It took kicks to settle the UEFA Europa League tie between Besiktas and Liverpool after both clubs won 1-0 home legs.