The team may be called 'Sporting Kansas City' now - not the best name but still less embarassing than Real Salt Lake I suppose - but SBnation's home for the former Kansas City Wizards is still under the name 'The Daily Wiz' and they're still producing fine quality content about our neighbors to the east. As we always do, I corresponded with Andy Edwards from tDW and got some questions answered about the Sporks. Check out my answers to his questions here!
BW: I know you're probably sick of hearing about it, but with the problematic record of SKC the biggest story of the year was probably the Ochocinco debacle. Has that actually had any positive impact with Kansas City?
tDW: I would have to say the biggest story of the year so far has been the road trip, really. As far as the Ochocinco thing, I'm so over that. He was here for his initial "trial", if you can call it that, in late March and hasn't been back since. He was made an "honorary member" of the team and supposed to be able to come back and train with the team anytime he wants, but again, hasn't been back since the initial "trial."
Given two months separation from the whole ordeal, it really starts to feel like it was little more than an ego-feeding for him, that he could get a professional soccer team to let him try out and play with them. He had very little game skill, but because of who he is, of course, he was allowed to parade around and do as he pleased. I mean, he's a bull rider and a professional snake wrangler now. The guy had no real interest in "playing" soccer.BW: I called Kansas City after the first game of the season "The deepest team of strikers other than the Rapids in MLS". Has the group including Bravo, Bunbury, Sapong, etc. been able to live up to that?
tDW: Coming into the season, had you told me that the Rapids had a deeper group than KC, I would have told you to go somewhere. Bravo, Bunbury, Kamara, Smith and Sapong are about as good as any forward group can be in MLS, five deep. Sapong, who was a nice revelation to start the season, has tapered off a bit, but has come on strong again of late. Smith missed the first two months of the season coming off knee surgery, and Bravo missed a month following sports hernia surgery. He has also just recently come back and looks to be regaining fine form.
I would say they certainly have lived up to the hype, and are still the deepest group of forwards in the league. In Peter Vermes' 4-3-3 system, he manages to use three of them at a time, with two on the bench ready to come in fresh, now that they are all healthy. He even played four together - all by Sapong - on Saturday against Seattle. And while they didn't manage to score one in that game, they did have quite a few solid chances, and put the Seattle defense in a lot of awkward positions. The great thing about them is they all bring something different to the team and can each change the game in a different way.
BW: What's been the biggest reason for Sporting's inability to win on this unfortunately never ending road trip? Offense? Defense? Goalkeeping? Missing Jewsbury more than we thought they would?
tDW: I'll go ahead and kill the Jewsbury theory now. He wouldn't have fit into the style of play this year, thus he wouldn't be having the success for KC that he is with Portland right now. That said, great for him; he's a great guy and deserves every bit of it.
Really, it's been a little bit of everything. There's been a ton of bad luck (mistaken identity red card, key player injuries, phantom red cards, etc.), a bit of sheer idiocy from time to time from the defense and as you said, every game on the road. Every week they lose two days - one of recovery, due to returning home and one of preparation, due to game travel - ahead of every single game, and that's two days their opponents have the luxury of every single week.
If there is one area that hasn't been the reason at any point this year, it's Jimmy Nielsen in goal. His 17 goals conceded in 7 games looks awful, but if it weren't for him, it could easily be 22-25 without his miraculous saves all throughout the season. The defense struggled mightily early on and put a ton of pressure on him, with him living up to it. Now, they are on two straight games (one in league and one in US Open Cup) of good form - 1 goal conceded between the two and that was a 93rd minute corner kick goal - so that group looks to be shaping up.
The midfield has been almost non-existent for much of the year, but even that has shaped up a bit over the course of the last couple weeks. Things do look to be turning around a bit at the right. Which is great, because they've sure got a lot of good karma payback headed their way.