SKC Showing No Signs of Slowing Down

With most players back with the team, Sporting KC focuses on the second half of the season
by Katherine Rupp   |   Thursday, July 24, 2014

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.

The World Cup dream is officially over, the Major League Soccer regular season reality is in full view and Sporting Kansas City are seemingly steps ahead of other teams.

As the most known owner of Sporting KC, Robb Heineman, and head coach Peter Vermes, went along last year and earlier this season, with selling certain players and the acquisition of others, the summer of 2014 probably wasn’t on their minds. However, where Sporting KC stand now, past moves in transfer windows and decisions for the team look extremely shrewd and great business moves for the team and for the front office, as well as the playing form for players is at a great clip.

When Claudio Bieler came to the team in late 2012 as a Designated Player, many had their hopes placed on the Ecuadorian to help lead the team. He hasn’t had the best season and a half, but with recent announcements concerning 2 other designated players, it doesn’t look like it’ll be too much longer having 3 DPs and pare it down to just the new pair.

After the World Cup ended for the United States Men’s National Team, 2 Sporting KC players – captain Matt Besler and fan favorite Graham Zusi – saw their stocks rise to levels where they had options to go overseas. Most recently, the former roommates signed DP  contracts, which will see their time in Kansas City extended through the long term deal. The extension of both players especially after a World Cup, and more specifically one where much of the talk was of defender Besler making a possible move overseas because of his strong work rate and showing in Brazil, shows the persistence of the owners, front office staff, and the coaching staff to showcase the talent that has been brought up in the Sporting KC system.

Regardless of any signings or extensions after the World Cup, in the past few years with the offloading of Kei Kamara, Roger Espinoza, and Uri Rosell, most who follow MLS, and KC fans especially, were – quite appropriately – apprehensive about the future of Sporting KC with bigger names and great talent leaving the Midwestern club.

Nevertheless, the letting go of a handful of players, and having unfortunate illnesses or injuries hit the Sporting KC team, as well as letting a few players play at the biggest sporting event in the world, Sporting Kansas City was able to stay in the top few spots of the Eastern Conference, as is par for the course of a club like Sporting KC these days. Part of that solid play with many players missing was the confident play of the likes of Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer leading the charge.

With only a 2-week break from MLS for the World Cup, there wasn’t much time for injured players to recuperate and rejuvenate, and players had to step into bigger roles. In fact, in all of June and the first 4 matches in July, Sporting KC had – in MLS and US Open Cup play – 13 goals with Dwyer (4 goal) and Feilhaber (2 assists and 2 goal) producing or having their foot or head in more than half of the goals in that time frame.

What’s more, with the newly minted Zusi and Besler now back in the fold, and Feilhaber and Dwyer still on hot streaks, the second half of the season should be interesting.

Additionally, with Besler and Zusi snapped up for the next handful of seasons and can then now play without hindrance of looming signings or contracts, and players on hot streaks recently – more than Dwyer and Feilhaber as a couple of other players have been solid including Lawrence Olum, Soony Saad, and Igor Juliao – don’t expect Sporting Kansas City to slow down anytime soon.

That is, if they do at all.

NEXT UP: July 26, 2014 – Sporting Kansas City v. Toronto FC, BMO Field, Toronto, Canada, 7:00 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.