Sporting KC Vs. Dynamo, MLS Cup Playoffs 2011: Forward Quartet Leads Way For KC

Sporting KC has received 35 goals from their four forwards, accounting for 65 percent of the team's scoring.

Most teams would love to have two top-class forwards. A few may have three. Sporting Kansas City has four.

Considering there's really no reasonable way to get four forwards on the field at the same time, you might be inclined to think it's more "too much of a good thing" than "embarrassment of riches." As Sporting KC heads into Sunday's Eastern Conference against the Houston Dynamo, though, the ability to get significant contributions out of Omar Bravo, Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara and CJ Sapong has arguably been the biggest key to the team's success.

The four forwards, who have only been on the field at the same time for a total of 172 minutes this season, have all managed to contribute plenty. Each of them have played at least 1,900 minutes in MLS play this season (including playoffs) and have combined for 35 goals, 65 percent of Sporting KC's total. They've also contributed a combined 15 assists, 38 percent of the team's total. In the last 17 matches, the foursome has been especially effective, registering 22 goals and helping Sporting KC go 10-2-4. That run of succes also includes three goals in a pair of wins against the Colorado Rapids in the conference semifinals.

The depth of talent has proven to a boon to Sporting KC as they've been able to weather a combination of injuries, suspensions and ineffectiveness from each of their forwards at various points in the season.

The steadiest of the quartet has been Kamara, who has played more career MLS minutes than the other three forwards combined. Kamara was tied for the team lead in regular-season goals (nine) and has provided veteran leadership on a team that doesn't have much MLS experience. He's also the most physical of the group. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 185 pounds, he's a handful for just about any defender.

Sapong, a rookie, is the only one of the group to play in all 36 matches. After scoring a goal in his first match, Sapong went 11 games without scoring, before finding his touch again in a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. His combination of speed and skill have allowed him to push Bunbury for playing time, and even led many to wonder if he might actually be a better longterm talent than someone who was the No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft.

For all Bunbury's struggles -- at one point going 17 matches without a MLS goal -- he has still scored a team-leading 11 goals, including two during Sporting KC's 2-0 win in the first leg of their playoff win over the Dynamo. Six of those goals have come in Sporting's last nine, a stretch in which they went 6-1-2. 

The final element, and the one whose role is most in question at this point, is Bravo. Injuries and suspensions have limited him to 27 appearances, but the Designated Players has still scored nine goals. At various times, coach Peter Vermes has tried using Bravo as a central midfielder, but those experiments have been met with mixed reviews. More recently, he's been dealing with an abductor strain and missed both of KC's playoff games. When he's been healthy, though, Bravo has shown the kind of skills that made him one of the most successful players in Mexican Primera history. 

Which collection of talent Vermes chooses to use on Sunday is not entirely clear. But based on what we've seen to this point, he has plenty of good options.

For the latest updates and analysis on the MLS Cup playoffs, be sure to check out SB Nation Soccer. For a Sporting KC perspective, visit The Daily Wiz.

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