Why SKC is Prepared For 2014 and Beyond

Sporting KC boasts of a deep roster this season, and also look to the same in future years
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, March 19, 2014

John Hefti Photography - SKC, Sporting KC

When it comes to a team with depth, not many other MLS teams can surpass Sporting Kansas City with the quality, and quantity, of the kind of players who are on the team. Some teams in Major League Soccer are known for their big spending DPs, while others – similar to what Sporting KC have been doing – build up their players from within as well as buying players wisely, even if they might not be big names.

Not only does Sporting KC play in MLS, they also have CONCACAF Champions League games and will join in with the US Open Cup once MLS clubs are placed in the brackets. In addition to competitive games, Sporting Kansas City will welcome Premier League giant Manchester City to Kansas City in July. A

lthough both teams will have some of their respective national team players either not available, not in Kansas City or only playing a select few minutes, the game should be a good test for Sporting to not only give players the chance to be on the same pitch as some of the best players in the world and enjoy the game, but also to show the coaching staff their abilities against such a huge club’s roster.

With so many games scheduled for this summer, some clubs would maybe cower and not because of the lack of confidence but rather because of their lack of depth.

Sporting KC lack neither of those characteristics.

Sporting have the confidence because of past games and competitions won – namely the US Open Cup in 2012 and the most recent MLS Cup in 2013. What’s more, the assurance in the team is what gives a certain aspect of watching the team to be enjoyable; and that confidence comes with players knowing they are useful and valuable to the goals and aspirations for the team, and it all comes back to team depth.

Sporting KC can be seen – before the rebranding and now a few years after – as a bit of a motley group, emphasized by the varied type of defensive backline that SKC manager Peter Vermes puts out with Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin at the helm. Even with all the differences of playing style and diversity of personal character, the men in blue prove that they have what it takes this year to push their game to another level.

When Graham Zusi and Matt Besler are – almost certainly – in Brazil for part of the summer (not to mention the possibility of yellow card accumulation for some), that means a few more players will step up to lead in the midfield and defense. With the addition of Sal Zizzo from Portland this offseason, midfield width won’t be a problem as the former Timber is a winger through and through and yet he is also versatile enough to overlap with forwards and center mids, similar to Zusi’s style. An encouraging note is the fact that there midfielders were added this offseason and have already made an impact just a handful of games in the MLS season.

And to add, the ‘second string’ for defenders – coming after the usual backline of Besler, Collin, Chance Myers, and Seth Sinovic – that Sporting KC can put out on the pitch is just as good as some other starting backlines for other MLS teams.

Along with missing players because of the World Cup, at least 3 – Christian Duke, Jon Kempin, and Mikey Lopez – will be deployed at Sporting KC’s USL PRO affiliates with Lopez joining Orlando City SC and Duke and Kempin at Oklahoma City Energy FC. Not only are those 3 young players being sent to Orlando and Oklahoma City because of the affiliate agreement but they will also be playing more consistent minutes and will get commendable coaching and mentoring which will further the quality of player that Duke, Kempin, and Lopez already are.

Looking at the roster from last year to this year, and with 1 less forward because of the transaction of Teal Bunbury leaving for the New England Revolution, even the forward spot is still incredibly deep. An example of the quality of players Sporting Kansas City have in the back pocket is the case of designated player, Claudio Bieler. The Argentine, after enjoying a strong end of the season in 2013 and a successful preseason in Arizona and Florida, has only played 13 minutes of 2014 MLS play after being subbed on in Sporting’s 1-1 draw against FC Dallas. Player strategy is just as important – as is shown through Vermes’ decision surrounding Bieler – as team chemistry, starting eleven, and substitution decisions because of the options a team may have because of the depth of the roster.

As Sporting Kansas City continue on their hectic 2014 schedule with MLS regular season, CCL, the USOC and friendlies, one advantage the team can look to is their depth.

Regardless of who is loaned out where, what players are gone for the World Cup, if a player or 2 get injured, if there is a time that the coaching staff needs to rest players, or some unforeseen circumstance comes about, Sporting KC can look to 2014 – and future years (judging by the strong attributes of young and homegrown players) – to be a strong season because of the character, strength, and depth of the roster.

NEXT UP: March 19 – CCL: Sporting KC vs. Cruz Azul, Estadio Azul, Mexico City, Mexico. 10 p.m. EST, Fox Sports 2, Galavision.

March 22 – Sporting Kansas City v. San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan. 8:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

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.