Nuno Andre Coelho, a Portuguese six foot four inch center back, opened up the Sporting KC season with an outside of the box banger into Seattle’s bottom left corner. After that 1-0 win on March 6, Sporting has gone on to win three straight games, beginning their season with an undefeated record.
Sporting is coming back from a mediocre season from last year and a skeptical winter transfer window, time during off season when teams can trade/buy/sell players. My prediction for the season is that they will keep their momentum from the first few games and go on to have an above-average season. Their amazing start and motivation from the star players have led me to this conclusion. However, I don’t believe they have enough creativity and young players, that are needed to set-up and score goals, to get farther than the quarterfinals in the playoffs.
Attempting to improve the squad and get to the playoffs, Sporting signed Brad Davis from the Houston Dynamo. Justin Mapp was also added to the mix, who is the first free agent signing in MLS history after the league introduced free agency, which is when a sports player is not bound by a contract and is eligible to join any team. They also acquired a few young players from the 2015 draft, who look like they could potentially replace the current stars in the future.
Although experienced players have shown their worth so far this season, these top transfers of 2016 don’t have the caliber of players that big teams in the MLS have. The MLS is known for being the league where great players from Europe come to play their final few seasons. Players such as Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard, David Villa and many other golden oldies have all played in the MLS. Every top team in the league has followed this trend, except for Sporting.
This hasn’t been a problem until SKC started losing the great players, like Kei Kamara and Aurelien Collin that won them the 2013 MLS Cup Championship. They need some new superstars to add some creativity and energy to the squad.
Don’t get me wrong, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, etc. are exceptional soccer players. However, Dwyer has been carrying the offense since last season. He needs a big finisher to stay in the box for headers and crosses, to be a strong force scoring goals.
Last year, SKC had a record of W14-D11-L9 in the regular season and then lost in the knockout round of the MLS Cup. Even though that is a good record, Sporting ran into many problems concerning injuries in the defense. Also, Sporting has not been able to find a consistent goalkeeper since Jimmy Nielsen.
Moving onto the playoffs for Sporting last year: they were a joke. They got completely outplayed by the NY Red Bulls, and although they held them off for quite some time, NYRB was just the better team and beat Sporting easily. With new additions to the MLS, such as Orlando FC and New York City FC, Sporting has all new competition. And with those teams gaining more and more popularity and money, if Sporting don’t step up in the transfers, they will be left in the dust.
Why Sporting doesn’t take note of what successful and recent champion teams in the MLS are doing keeps me up at night. They most definitely have the means of buying players, especially after selling Krisztián Németh to the Qatar league, who is known for shelling out some serious cash.
Matt Besler is the only trustworthy defender. With Ike Opara constantly injured, we did not have any real consistent and strong defenders. However, I am excited by signing of Coelho; he has looked like a capable defender since his first match with Sporting.
As for the midfield, Sporting is constantly signing experienced defensive and central midfielders, which they showed again in the latest transfer window. Players like Roger Espinoza and Benny Feilhaber can really lead the team and set up some great goals. Sporting has, and will, in the future have a strong and capable midfield.
Now, it may seem as if Sporting is in the prehistoric age in terms of the MLS, but they will be a force to reckon with this season. Their brick wall midfield and Dom Dwyer’s silky skills, should lead them to a great season that can be a building block to the future of Sporting with those big changes.
Sporting needs to improve all of these elements. The offense and transfers are what need to be worked on immediately, luckily they go hand in hand. My other small complaints will hopefully be resolved when Peter Vermes and the rest of Sporting’s management get to work. If, and only if, they make these changes, they will continue their recent success and maybe even get back the cup.