Feb 28, 2013, 8:55 AM EDT
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.
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.
May 24, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT
When Bayern Munich face Borussia Dortmund tomorrow at 2:45 ET at Wembley, they won’t be playing for a ticket into the elite. They won’t be playing for the right to be recognized as permanent contenders. They’ve already done both of those. The path each of these bitter German rivals took to get to the final…
May 24, 2013, 11:38 AM EDT
Which individual battles will determine which side lifts the UEFA Champions League trophy at Wembley on Saturday?
May 24, 2013, 11:04 AM EDT
We take a look at which US cities deserve an MLS expansion franchise and how close they are to getting it. Thoughts?
May 24, 2013, 10:07 AM EDT
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May 24, 2013, 8:31 AM EDT
The first-ever all-German UEFA Champions League final is one day away, take a look at our infographic to see which side has the edge.
May 24, 2013, 8:01 AM EDT
Christie Rampone and Sky Blue FC try to stay atop the NWSL Saturday in Overland Park.
May 23, 2013, 11:24 PM EDT
Manchester City overcame a 3-goal deficit at Busch Stadium in St. Louis as Edin Dzeko bagged a brace to beat Chelsea 4-3.
May 23, 2013, 11:03 PM EDT
Just days after Jose Mourinho mutually parted ways with Real Madrid, he will be completing a deal to become Chelsea’s next manager, says Martin Rogers of Yahoo! Sports via Twitter.
May 23, 2013, 9:54 PM EDT
Roberto Martinez has given himself more time to decide on his future at Wigan, and also gave them a wish list.
May 23, 2013, 8:44 PM EDT
Asmir Begovic is apparently intending on showing up at the door of another club to start training.
May 23, 2013, 7:16 PM EDT
AS Monaco, rich with the injection of money from a Russian tycoon, are set to make a huge splash, possibly as much as €70 million.
May 23, 2013, 6:35 PM EDT
The United States U-18 squad drew with the hosts in the middle of three group-stage matches during the 19th Annual Lisbon International Juniors Tournament.
May 23, 2013, 6:05 PM EDT
20-year-old Jonathan Osorio picked up his debut call-up to the Canadian national team along with three other Toronto FC teammates ahead of their friendly against Costa Rica on Tuesday.
May 23, 2013, 5:11 PM EDT
“Football clubs live on and we’ll live on, we’ll move on.” They’ll move on, they have to. But will they effectively?
May 23, 2013, 3:56 PM EDT
With the upcoming Champions League final this weekend featuring an all-German cast, Germany secured another massive Champions League achievement today.
May 23, 2013, 3:33 PM EDT
Anyone else bothered by the way Bayern Munich have conducted themselves ahead of this Saturday’s Champions League final?
May 23, 2013, 2:39 PM EDT
Sunderland’s central defender will say goodbye to the English Premier League in exchange for a switch stateside.
May 23, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT
Chelsea fans will be delighted, while those supporting Manchester City are sure to question who’s on their team’s mind.
May 23, 2013, 1:37 PM EDT
Should the champions of the Europa League be awarded a spot in the following season’s Champions League?
May 23, 2013, 12:07 PM EDT
The city’s decision to permit Columbus to wear angers Espanyol fans, who believe Barca receives too much support from local institutions.
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