Sporting KC is poised for another impressive season, but a lack of depth in the back could be their bugaboo writes The Daily Wiz's Alen Englen.
2011 record (finish): 13-9-12
Key additions: Bobby Convey, Michael Thomas, Dominic Dwyer
Key losses: Omar Bravo, Davy Arnaud, Craig Rocastle
Projected starting XI: Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Espinoza, Cesar, Zusi, Convey, Sapong, Kamara
Bold prediction: 1st in the Eastern Conference
Biggest fear: The lack of a true difference maker in this young side.
The 2012 season for Sporting Kansas City will be one of redemption. After barely missing out on the MLS Final last year, Sporting KC has remained somewhat stagnant in their offseason transactions compared to previous years when Peter Vermes revamped a much older and declining squad. One of the main reasons for the low profile being kept by the club during the offseason is due to Vermes and his staff having finally constructed the core of a young, but not necessarily inexperienced side. In fact, Vermes and Co. have managed to retain all 11 of those starters from the Eastern Conference Final and are certainly shaping up to be one of the top teams, not just in the Eastern Conference but in the whole of MLS -- something I tend to forget.
But one thing that I haven't lost sight of is how we currently do not have a DP listed on the roster going into the 2012 campaign. After losing Omar Bravo in a December transfer to Cruz Azul, and waiving Jeferson around the same time, the club has been without a Designated Player for a good three months now and with it being the offseason - rumors were swirling that we would eventually sign one. Alas, we have not signed one, nor does it seem like we will at this stage of the season. Come summer we could easily sign a DP when they are almost half-off the salary cap.
Despite not having a DP, this team is still absolutely stacked to the ceiling with depth at almost every position. Of course the striker position would certainly be the gem of the whole crown with center forwards like CJ Sapong, Teal Bunbury, Soony Saad and Dom Dwyer charging down the middle of a three-pronged attack. As if that wasn't impressive enough, Kei Kamara and former San Jose Earthquakes player Bobby Convey are on either wing to round off an ever-impressive forward line. Sporting KC's central midfield depth will also be key to this season, Graham Zusi, Julio Cesar and Roger Espinoza being the highlights of Peter Vermes' three-man midfield.
The one place that Sporting KC could be considered a little weak depth-wise would be at the back. Longtime second string shot-stopper Eric Kronberg recently succumbed to a lower back injury that could keep him out for 6 weeks. That's not a insignificant development as it essentially puts veteran goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen just one suspension or injury away from throwing 18-year-old Jonathon Kempin into the MLS limelight. The center back position has also been at question for Sporting KC and while a pairing of Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin in the middle of defesne is one of the best center back partnerships in all of MLS, there really isn't much behind them. Lawrence Olum and Cyprian Hedrick are the only two other central defenders currently on the roster and between the two of them they have amassed just 1 MLS appearance.
All-in-all, the rapidly growing fan base around Kansas City expects a lot from this young Sporting Kansas City side, and why shouldn't they? With the guys on this roster, and the facilities and staff at our disposal we should easily be contending for the MLS Cup Final, something that would have been laughed at should I of said it just 2 or 3 short years ago. The turnaround for this team from when they used to be called the Wizards, to now, is absolutely astonishing, and the 2012 season could just be the club's best season yet.
- Report by Alen Englen, The Daily Wiz