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2017 Western Conference Preview: Sporting Kansas City

Reviewing SKC’s 2016 season and previewing what’s good (and not so good) for 2017.

Real Salt Lake v Sporting Kansas City Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Rapids Rabbi discussed what 2017 holds for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Since we are going in reverse alphabetical order, that means it’s time to preview our neighbors to the east, Sporting Kansas City.

Side note: this is my first preseason with Burgundy Wave, so please be nice if my analysis isn’t as in-depth as our Head Statistician ;)

Sporting Kansas City Preview for 2017

2016 Record: 13-13-8 (WLT), 47 points, 5th in the Western Conference

2016 Goals For: 42 (16th in MLS)

2016 Goals Against: 41 (15th in MLS)

Key Stat for 2016: Goals. Take away a few of Dom Dwyer’s goals and SKC is pretty much sitting where the Rapids were in the goal scoring department. Even with his goals, they were mediocre when it came to hitting the back of the net.

http://www.sportingkc.com/stats

Key Additions:

Ilie Sanchez, Andrew Dykstra, Gerso Fernandes

Key Subtractions:

Brad Davis, Nuno Andre Coelho, Chance Myers, Jacob Peterson

Hear Peter Vermes’ thoughts on the roster in a press conference released a couple weeks ago from the Kansas City Star.

What Kansas City has going for them:

There’s some competition for playing positions and starting jobs, and competition makes everybody work harder. Andrew Dykstra was a solid backup keeper for D.C. United, and could give Tim Melia a run for his money. Last year, SKC lacked depth in the D-Mid position, so the signing of Sanchez could light a little fire under Soni Mustivar. Then there’s the center back position. Kevin Ellis is kind of like the 2015 Jared Watts, surprisingly brilliant or not very good at all. If he has a breakout year like Watts did in 2016, he could potentially challenge the injury-prone Ike Opara for a starting position.

They have filled in a desperately-needed winger position with the signing of DP Gerso Fernandes. Peter Vermes called him a “dynamic winger that can play on either side of the field and the fact that he played a similar formation to ours in Portugal will only help his transition into our team.”

What’s troubling:

Sporting Kansas City could have six players out during the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament this summer. With Dom Dwyer about to get his U.S. citizenship, and Benny Feilhaber playing well so far, add on USMNT staples Graham Zusi, and Matt Besler and you’ve got four guys out just for the United States. Soni Mustivar could get called up for Haiti and Roger Espinoza is a likely call-up for Honduras.

Another point worth considering is what is Zusi’s role for SKC? It looks like he’s moving into the fullback position for the national team, so will that transfer over to SKC, too? Or will he stay as an attacking player? If he does move to fullback with Kansas City, how does that affect the dynamics of the team? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

While Dom Dwyer has had an impressive couple of seasons (28 goals in 2015 + 2016), he can be really effective or he can get shut down. Some say that the 4-3-3 puts Dwyer up there by himself to create his own chances or take on big center backs. If he’s having a good game, things go well, but if he gets shut down, SKC doesn’t have many other offensive weapons, especially with Jacob Peterson heading to Atlanta.

2017 Forecast:

Sporting Kansas City is in a net negative for players lost vs. players gained. Sure, they picked up Fernandes as a winger, but they lost leadership, a solid defensive player, a fan favorite, and a goal scorer. I think they’re going to dip below the line this year and may not make the playoffs. I’m going to say 7th in the Western Conference, but honestly, they could sneak into 5th or 6th if they get lucky/if LA completely tanks their season.

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Next up, Rapids Rabbi will cover the Seattle Sounders and whether or not they stand a chance of repeating their 2016 success.