For the fourth straight season, Sporting Kansas City ran into the knockout round wall.
Since winning MLS Cup in 2013, the team has made the postseason four times and each run was one and done, with last year’s loss coming in extra time at the hands of the Houston Dynamo. The team did pick up some silverware, however, winning the U.S. Open Cup in September.
There’s been some change to Peter Vermes’ roster since the summer, as Dom Dwyer was traded midseason and Benny Feilhaber was sent out in the offseason. Felipe Gutierrez and Yohan Croizet were brought in to spice up the attack in the hope that more creative players can help one of the worst scoring teams in the league last year.
But the good news for Sporting KC is that a top-notch defense returns in full, ensuing that the club will have a solid base to build from. Finding an attack that is even average could be key in helping SKC past that knockout round barrier.
How did Sporting KC perform in 2017?
2017 finish: Fifth in Western Conference (12-9-13), lost in knockout round
Sporting KC boasted the best defense in the league last season, allowing just 29 goals. In fact, SKC was the only team in the league to allow less than a goal a game. Not surprisingly, the club saw Tim Melia win MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and Ike Opara named the Defender of the Year.
The attack, however, was substandard, scoring the fifth-fewest goals in the league. The team did deal U.S. international Dwyer midseason, but even he only had five goals in 15 games before the deal.
Sporting KC key offseason losses
Benny Feilhaber is gone, reunited with his old national team boss Bob Bradley with Los Angeles FC. Latif Blessing also is with the new side, lost in the expansion draft after showing promise last season.
Another promising player, U.S. youth international Erik Palmer-Brown, signed with Manchester City. While that’s a loss for the future, he did not feature much for the team in his time there. Saad Abdul-Salaam was traded to New York City FC, having lost his right back spot to Graham Zusi.
Sporting KC key offseason additions
Sporting KC brought in two new designated players this winter, landing midfielders Yohan Croizet and Felipe Gutierrez. Khiry Shelton was acquired in the Abdul-Salaam trade but may have been relegated to a backup role after the team signed winger Johnny Russell from Derby County.
Emiliano Amor was brought in on loan, but as a center back figures to be largely relegated to a backup role. Forward Zach Wright and defender Matt Lewis were homegrown signings while the club landed defender Graham Smith and goalkeeper Eric Dick in the SuperDraft.
Full Sporting KC roster entering 2018 season
Goalkeepers: Eric Dick, Tim Melia, Adrian Zendejas
Defenders: Emiliano Amor, Matt Besler, Amer Didic, Kevin Ellis, Matt Lewis, Jaylin Lindsey, Jimmy Medranda, James Musa, Ike Opara, Seth Sinovic, Graham Smith, Colton Storm, Graham Zusi
Midfielders: Yohan Croizet, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez, Cristian Lobato, Illie Sanchez
Forwards: Kharlton Belmar, Gianluca Busio, Gerso Fernandes, Diego Rubio, Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Khiry Shelton, Zach Wright
Sporting KC projected starting lineup
Melia will be between the sticks for Sporting KC and Opara will occupy one center back spot, with Besler manning the other. Zusi will be the right back and Lobato seems to be set on the left.
The midfield features Sanchez and Espinoza. There’s no Feilhaber this season, with designated player and Chile international Gutierrez slotting in there.
The forward line has plenty of options. Croizet, as a designated player, should take up one spot. Russell, in from Derby County of the English Championship, should fill the other. Rubio had his best stretch for the team after coming into the lineup following Dwyer’s midseason trade, but Salloi has gotten some run in the preseason.
Shelton seemed to be in the running for a spot until Russell’s acquisition, but should get some opportunity this season. Medranda could see time at numerous positions from attack to defense.
Sporting KC national TV coverage
Sporting KC vs. New York City FC - Sunday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1
LA Galaxy vs. Sporting KC - Sunday, April 8, at 9 p.m. ET on FS1
Sporting KC vs. Seattle Sounders - Sunday, April 15, 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
Sporting KC vs. Columbus Crew - Sunday, May 27, at 6 p.m. ET on FS1
Sporting KC vs. Minnesota United - Sunday, June 3, at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1
Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting KC - Sunday, Sept. 23, at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake - Sunday, Sept. 30, at 5 p.m. ET on FS1