The Formidable Defense of Sporting KC

After a strong 2013, Sporting KC’s defense looks to return in 2014 with more tenacity than ever
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, January 08, 2014

John Hefti Photography - SKC, Sporting KC

Specifically over the past 3 years, Sporting Kansas City have had one of the best defenses in MLS.

That goes without showing any awards or recognitions but by looking at the numbers. Just for 2013, Sporting KC boasted 18 clean sheets in all competitions and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen recently retired with .99 goals against average, the MLS record for keepers who played at least 4,500 minutes.

In addition to the goalkeeping prowess of the White Puma in the recent years, the defenders who have allowed very few goals season after season also held opponents to 1 goal or fewer in 30 matches in 2013.

The main 4 defenders for Sporting KC led the way for a championship season in 2013 and the 2014 season looks to be no different with, as of the new year, the 4 starters returning.

One outside fullback, Seth Sinovic, looks to make large strides this season. To cap off a handful of productive seasons at Sporting KC, Sinovic was recently rewarded by being called in to the US Men’s National Team January camp. After notching his first MLS goal – in a game against rivals Houston Dynamo – as well as starting 30 games in 2012, Sinovic came back and had a stellar 2013.

The Kansas native continues to prove himself as a ‘steady eddy’ by continually showing his defensive abilities and skills as opponents come at him down the wing. If Sinovic shows well at the USMNT January Camp, look for him to be called up – not necessarily to Brazil for the World Cup (although that could be a possibility) – but for other competitions and friendlies that the USMNT play this year and in coming years. Regardless of how Sinovic performs during USMNT camp, 2014 looks to be his year for Sporting KC.

Across the field from Sinovic is the familiar face of rightback, Chance Myers. A bit flashier than Sinovic – although none as exuberant as defender, Aurelien Collin – the California native scored his first goals of his MLS career in 2013; both goals were netted in a home loss to Portland, with his first coming from a throw-in by way of fellow defender Matt Besler.

Although Myers is out of contract now after the 2013 season, there is no reason to believe that he will leave, at least for the next season. One thing to take into account, like Sinovic, Myers was asked to take part in his first USMNT January camp. His solid play at rightback with the crisp passes and crosses will be welcomed, per usual, in Kansas City, and quite possibly, could be a lovely addition to the USMNT.

Aurelien Collin had exceptional seasons in 2012 and 2013 by registering memorable saves and even more memorable goals and hopefully 2014 won’t be any different. Collin’s contract runs through 2014 so there’s no doubt supporters will see the same dedication this coming season than they have in years past.

The ying to Besler’s yang in the KC centerback pairing, Collin – in 2 out of the 3 years that he’s played at KC – finished as an MLS All-Star (in 2012 and 2013), and also ended the past 2 seasons as an MLS Defender of the Year finalist (2012) and Sporting KC Humanitarian of the Year (2013). Although Collin may be the q defender, out of the main 4, to receive more yellows or gets booked for more fouls, he makes up for the culpability of his actions by playing hard enough to maintain one of the best goals against average in MLS. 

Besler became somewhat of an epiphany for US Soccer and Sporting Kansas City this past year, and 2014 looks to continue that upward trend of Besler honing his chops at centerback alongside LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez with the USMNT and Collin with Sporting KC.

The Kansan is primed to be named to the 23-man squad that will head to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, which means he will miss a few MLS games in the summer. However much Besler will be missed because of his seniority at Sporting KC – Besler wore the captain’s armband a handful of times in 2013 when Nielsen was not playing – and his steady defense – he was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2012 and was finalist for the same award in 2013 - Sporting KC has more than enough firepower on the bench so as to not crumble against strong opponents.

Up and coming

Sporting Kansas City is lucky enough to have one of the best defenses in the league with the main backline featuring Sinovic, Besler, Collin and Myers, but with so many games across multiple competitions over the summer, KC can rely on those 4 but will have certain players looking to shine.

In 2014, look for a few players to step up their game including Ike Opara, Mechack Jerome, Josh Gardner and Kevin Ellis. Opara is probably the most well known – of those who are usually watching from the bench – by getting a handful of starts and sub minutes in 2013, but Jerome, Gardner and Ellis could make names for themselves in 2014.

Although Besler will miss games – barring injury – because of the World Cup, and possibly Collin, Myers, or Sinovic because of yellow card accumulation, the non-starters will have a chance to impress Vermes and the coaching staff. And though Sporting KC will need to acquire another defender or 2, Opara, Jerome, Gardner, and Ellis should still get a few looks this year. With (most likely) all the defensive starters and subs returning in 2014, Sporting Kansas City look to keep a formidable defense for CONCACAF Champions League, US Open Cup and MLS.

NEXT UP: February 1 –Friendly: Sporting Kansas City v. Portland Timbers, North Stadium at Kino Sports Complex, Tucson, Ariz., 8 p.m. EST.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.