Shaky Games Still Showcase Sporting KC Quality, Depth

Regardless of inconsistency in play, Sporting Kansas City show quality through adversity
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, August 13, 2014

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

The dog days of summer have led to some lackadaisical play for Sporting Kansas City, but that hasn’t stopped a few of the players to shine in August.

There’s only 2 and a half months left in the regular season. And although people may not say Sporting KC is in a ‘funk’ of sorts, especially since the most recent game in Vancouver was the team’s first lost in 10 regular season games, the team wasn’t meshing as well as it has been all season. But all is not lost as Sporting Kansas City as bright areas still continue to shine.

But additionally, there’s been some movement with players. The main one, although he hasn’t had any part in games since October 2013, who was recently in agreement to end his contract, is the Haitian Xavi – otherwise known as Peterson Joseph. With Joseph now not on the squad, Sporting Kansas City has an open International roster spot to fill; one spot with which to fill for a possible Designated Player could sign, after a slow and somewhat disappointing season, for is forward Claudio Bieler. Although it’s unlikely, and near impossible, for the Argentine to be acquired by another club this year, because with the revelation of certain MLS stalwarts this season, the fact of some team members having a slump, like the aforementioned DP, shouldn’t deter Sporting KC fans.

One of those MLS stalwarts that has been having an incredible season, although he was rather quiet against the Vancouver Whitecaps, is Benny Feilhaber. Most recently, the midfielder was awarded the MLS Player of the Month honor for the month of July. And, when taking into consideration this season, every game he’s scored in, Sporting Kansas City has won, and the games where Feilhaber has an assist, the team is 2-1-2 (W-L-D).

Someone else who hasn’t had many plaudits – or rather, any – in MLS until this most recent game against the Whitecaps is homegrown goalkeeper, Jon Kempin. Andy Gruenebaum, the Kansas City native goalkeeper who started the game, ended up getting injured – and with starting goalie Eric Kronberg also injured for the past handful of weeks – Kempin got the call to finally have the chance for his first MLS appearance. Recently, Kempin was called into the Chipotle Homegrown game vs. the U-23 Portland team during the MLS All-Star week. Because of his great performance, he was named MVP of that conglomerate of a team. Kempin has been quietly working hard and upping his game with Orlando City on loan in 2013 and with Oklahoma City Energy – being coached by former teammate and Sporting KC MLS Cup winning keeper, Jimmy Nielsen – this season in 2014 until being recalled in July. What’s more, after being called up to be a backup goalkeeper to the backup goalkeeper, Kempin was able to see his first MLS minutes as well as his first penalty kick save of his MLS career. And regardless of the amount of time he’ll see for the rest of this season once Gruenebaum and Kronberg are healthy, Kempin looks to have a promising career ahead.

With one loss, two draws, and six wins for the MLS regular season since June 6th, Sporting Kansas City should be set for the next handful of games where the team takes on Eastern conference rivals DC United and the Houston Dynamo, in addition to Toronto FC. And though the past couple of games – namely against Vancouver and Philadelphia, which ended in a draw – have been lacking in confidence and haven’t looked like the Sporting Kansas City fans are accustomed to, with the play and assurance of players like Feilhaber and Kempin, Sporting KC are still on a steady track on the way to the MLS playoffs in a little more than 2 months.

NEXT UP: August 16  – Sporting Kansas City vs. Toronto FC, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas. 8:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live

August 19 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Esteli, Estadio Independencia, Esteli, Nicaragua. 10 p.m. EST, FOX Soccer Plus.

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.