>Friday Lunch: MLS Team Preview – Sporting KC

Posted: March 4, 2011 in mls
Tags: , , , , , , ,

>By Evan Ream, with help from the Intern

Last Year: 11-13-6 39 points, 3rd in East, 9th overall
Key Losses: Jonathan Leathers, Aaron Holbein, Jimmy Conrad, Josh Wolff, Jack Jewsbury
Key Additions: Luke Sassano, Omar Bravo, C.J. Sapong
Projected Starting XI: I could be completely wrong about this formation, but it looks like Sporting (that’s weird to type) is committed to playing a 4-3-3 this year. The only question is do they have the right players. Obviously, they are strong up top with Omar Bravo and Teal Bunbury as well as Kei Kamara, who scored ten goals last year. Their midfield should be anchored by Stephane Auvray, who is a decent holding midfielder, but offers nothing going forward, which may not be a bad thing considering they have both Davy Arnaud and Ryan Smith to provide service out of the midfield. Their defense is somewhat confusing to me. Both of their outside backs, Espinoza and Sassano are converted midfielders that aren’t that great defensively. Shavar Thomas is a decent center back, but nothing more; almost every team that has ever employed him has released him. Matt Besler is a decent player, but nothing special. Jimmy Nielson is a solid keeper who many thought should have been on the shortlist for Goalkeeper of the Year last year. All in all, Peter Vermes (give us your keys) looks to have a very offensive side. Their right side with Arnaud and Sassano will look to stay at home more while their left side will look to attack and run at people.

Omar Bravo          Teal Bunbury          Kei Kamara
Ryan Smith          Stephane Auvray          Davy Arnaud
Roger Espinoza          Shavar Thomas          Matt Besler          Luke Sassano
Jimmy Nielson


Prognosis: I still have no idea what to think of these teams trying to run 4-3-3s this year. They could work brilliantly, or they could fail terribly; I feel like it is going to be one or the other, but not the middle ground. Sporting definitely has some solid players, especially up top with Omar Bravo and breakout star Teal Bunbury (who should be back for the season opener after hurting his elbow). This team should have no problem scoring goals, which means that their season will ultimately come down to their midfield and defense. I feel like asking Stephane Auvray to do all the defensive work that he is going to have to be doing is a bit much; he isn’t Kyle Beckerman. Ryan Smith will have to stay disciplined about staying home at times and choosing when to roam up the field or else they will be exposed. This team has the makings of a playoff team as long as their defense proves to be decent, which I think it will be. They have a ten game road trip to start the season which could bury them deep in the standings, but if they get 10-15 points out of that whole trip, they should be able to come back and do work with 17 of their last 24 games at home. I can see this team stumbling out of the gate, but becoming one of the late movers to ultimately claim one of the last playoff spots. I feel like this team is one year away from being a legitimate contender.
The Intern’s Take: After finishing one spot outside of the post season last year and having their name copied by all those wanna-be American teams out there like Sporting Lisbon and Sporting de Gijon, Kansas City are on the brink of a return to a quality and competitive MLS team. The new playoff format this season guarantees the best three teams in the each Conference a playoff spot and KC should be able to genuinely challenge for one of the Eastern Conference positions, and if they miss out, be able to secure a wild card berth. While not spectacular, this team seems solid enough, which is more than can be said for a lot of MLS teams this year. While they do not have a standout midfield or defensive line, the players occupying those roles should all be able to compete and there are not many overtly obvious weaknesses in this team. Kansas City should be able to put up a lot of goals this year, with a lot of the goal scoring pressure falling, probably somewhat unfairly, on the dougie-ing shoulders of Teal Bunbury who leads an attacking trio with Omar Bravo and Kei Kamara. Teal Bunbury should be especially determined this season as he hopes to play himself onto this summer’s Gold Cup roster. How Omar Bravo transitions into the league will be very crucial to Kansas City’s season, and KC fans will be hoping he does better than the last Mexican forward DP, Nery Castillo, who made eight appearances for Chicago last year and did never scored for the Fire.

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