It's been a while since I last had anything of real substance to write about here. Sure, there have been small happenings around regarding Sporting Kansas City defender Shavar Thomas (Jamaica) and midfielders Stephane Auvray (Guadeloupe) and Craig Rocastle (Grenada) participating in the Digicel Carribean Cup. (Thomas' "Reggae Boyz" defeated Auvray's "Les Gwada Boys" in the final.) But, Mike and Charles from Down The Byline and The Full 90 have had all of those daily updates on his blog, so I feel no need to regurgitate the same information over and over again on every platform.
Of larger note recently, though, was the decision made by Sporting KC to not offer defenders Jimmy Conrad and Aaron Hohlbein new contracts at their current going rate. Along with Conrad and Holbein, the team also declined its 2011 option on forward Josh Wolff.
What I would like to do is make a quick run down of the SKC roster, both of some guys currently under contract and those out of contract, and discuss their current standing within the squad and what their future may hold. With the first of two re-entry drafts coming up on Wednesday, the movement and possible shake up of the roster could be creeping ever closer.
Today, we will take a look at our own half of the field - goalkeepers and defenders. Tomorrow will be the midfield and forwards.
Jimmy Nielsen reportedly resigned with the club last week, so expect him back in 2011 and to be the starter. That's the closest to a "sure thing" as there is going to be with this team right now.
Eric Kronberg was pulled back in the expansion draft as the additional protection slot after defender Jonathan Leathers was selected by Vancouver Whitecaps. To me, that says that head coach Peter Vermes has a high opinion of the 27-year old and he will almost assuredly be back next year.
Jon Kempin was the first ever homegrown player signed by SKC, is only 17 years old and doesn't even count against the team's salary cap.
Lock(s) for '11: Nielsen, Kempin
Near lock(s) for '11: Kronberg
Roger Espinoza graduated from the Generation adidas program following the 2010 season, meaning his salary will now count against the team's salary cap. He will also probably get a slight raise from the $75,000 he earned in '10. Even with those things going against him, his place on the 2011 roster should be in little doubt.
Opposite Espinoza at the rightback spot, Michael Harrington was my 2010 Defender of the Year and will certainly be back for his fifth season in Kansas City. Based upon his age and experience, and that his contract was out at the end of 2010, it is likely that Harrington got a sizeable raise on his recently negotiated contract. He's going to count harder against the salary cap, but that's fine by me.
Where might the money come from? Between Holbein and Conrad, $272,750 comes off the books. ($232,750 of that being Conrad's) The great debate of the 2010-11 offseason is that of whether or not Conrad will be, or should be, back in 2011.
I am of the opinion that Jimmy's time in KC has come to an end. At least as a player. As the resounding face of the franchise the last five years or so, Conrad had a great run in the center of defense for the Wizards. I don't think he ever plays a minute for Sporting KC, though.
As age begins to catch up with him, being left unprotected in the expansion draft and not offered a contract going forward this past week, all signs point to the team moving forward in another direction. There are whispers out there that Conrad doesn't get along with Vermes so well, so that could also go against him. Couple that with the extremely high salary and whether or not Jimmy comes back will come down to whether or not he accpets a (much) reduced contract for 2011 and a reduced role in the squad.
As of this moment, the centerback pairing would likely be the same as it was in the season finale against San Jose - Shavar Thomas and Matt Besler. They are both likely to be back, but for very different reasons. Thomas seems the "safe" pick for a starting spot, as he has been around the league for years and is big, strong and physical. Besler is young (23) and still show lots of promise. I can't imagine him being let go.
Korede Aiyegbusi should be pretty safe for a reserve team spot with the return of the reserve league next year. It would be nice for him to get that sort of regular action, though he will likely not have a real effect on the first team in the near future, if ever.
Nikos Kounenakis had a salary cap number of $60,000 pro-rated in 2010 after signing in mid-July. For that number, I would rather bump it up another ten grand and sign someone younger with room to improve.
Lock(s) for '11: Espinoza, Harrington
Likely for '11: Thomas, Besler, Aiyegbusi
Likely out for '11: Conrad, Holbein, Kounenakis