The 2016 was a bit of a disappointment for Sporting Kansas City. It was the second straight year with a road playoff game and a first round exit. There is a definite sour taste in the mouths of many fans.
Jacob, the Answer, Peterson’s departure for Atlanta was no surprise to fans that followed him. Peterson is a long time advocate of free agency and explored his options as soon as he was able.
Losing the third leading scorer is never a good thing, but 2017 shows promise. Peter Vermes added not one, but four, potential replacements for Peterson. Gerso Fernandes is KC’s new Designated Player on the wing. He’s expected to make an immediate impact for the club. Latif Blessing and the returning Soony Saad are both competing for time on the wing. What was a shallow position on the roster is now one of the biggest strengths.
Sporting likes to play a high pressure 4-3-3 with a lone striker. Dom Dwyer carries the bulk of the load up front. Vermes still hasn’t found a true backup forward, so a lot can be expected from Dwyer.
Although Graham Zusi is one of the highest profile players on the roster, there is some concern as to where he fits in this new look squad. If any of the new wingers can make an impact, Zusi may find himself out of a starting position despite having played primarily on the wing for the last two season. His potential switch to right back could be beneficial, but he’s still in for stiff competition from Saad Abdul-Salaam.
Expected Sporting Kansas City Line-up
This lineup makes sense for the beginning of the season. Known players will get the benefit of the doubt and Fernandes is bound to start after signing as a DP. There is a lot of room for fluctuation though. Saad, Blessing, and Medranda should all see time. If Salaam slows down, Zusi will be ready to steal the RB position as well.
Fans can expect Kansas City to exceed their 2016 results. A healthy defense, true wingers, and an excellent core of returning players will see this team challenge for the Western Conference.
Expect more of the same from Benny Feilhaber and Dwyer who are invaluable to this franchise. Roger Espinoza is likely to retain the captain’s armband in 2017. He’s a proven leader both on and off the field and a key factor in the team’s continued success.
The defensive unit was in Championship form for the last three games, giving up a single goal in 270 minutes. If this is any indication of things to come, look for a much stronger and more stable defensive unit in 2017. It should be noted that SKC won MLS Cup 2013 on the back of a stout defense that featured both Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic. Ike Opara and Salaam are capable defenders and can effectively replicate the 2013 system.
Sporting has their work cut out for them in 2017, but should have high hopes of exceeding their 2016 season totals. The core of this squad remains intact and the supporting cast is the strongest it has been in years. Vermes and the team feel like this is Sporting KC 2.0. If they are correct, 2017 could be a big year.