Peter Vermes has not been hesitant to create a small overhaul of his 2014 squad that bowed out of the MLS Cup playoffs before they really got started. The cutting down of the squad due to declined options, transfers and trades has resulted in Sporting KC only having 19 players as of writing on the roster for 2015. We're going to take a look at the remaining 11 spots available and how Sporting will go about filling them.
The Current Roster
Below is the current roster, sorted by position. Sporting has eight defenders, one goalkeeper, three forwards and seven midfielders. Soony Saad is technically still on the roster but with recent rumors sending him to Thailand on a transfer, we kept him off the list for projection purposes.
|15||D||Seth Sinovic||27||5' 10"||170|
|4||D||Kevin Ellis||23||5' 9"||160|
|3||D||Ike Opara||25||6' 2"||180|
|2||D||Erik Palmer-Brown||17||6' 1"||175|
|40||D||Igor Juliao||20||5' 8"||145|
|14||F||Dom Dwyer||24||5' 9"||180|
|37||F||Jacob Peterson||28||5' 10"||165|
|16||F||Claudio Bieler||30||5' 11"||171|
|21||GK||Jon Kempin||21||6' 1"||170|
|8||M||Graham Zusi||28||5' 10"||160|
|6||M||Paulo Nagamura||31||5' 8"||155|
|10||M||Benny Feilhaber||29||5' 9"||160|
|12||M||Mikey Lopez||21||5' 8"||160|
|94||M||Jimmy Medranda||20||5' 5"||150|
|20||M||Jorge Claros||28||5' 9"||155|
|M||Bernardo Añor||26||6' 1"||178|
Now, taking a look at where Sporting Kansas City was less than a year ago with their starting lineup against the Seattle Sounders on March 8.
This lineup is different from their primary lineup due to injuries and preparing for the Cruz Azul match since Uri Rosell, Seth Sinovic and Chance Myers were out for this match. We can already see how different the club is just from this lineup, however. Five players on this squad are no longer on the club and half of the 18-man game day roster that day is gone.
Sporting KC has already made a couple of moves to fill the holes left by the offseason transactions with Jalil Anibaba and Bernardo Anor, both very versatile players who can play multiple positions. Still, there's holes in the depth chart at a lot of positions and we're going to take a look at where there's holes and how they can be filled.
|Right Back||Center Right||Center Left||Left Back|
|Starters||Chance Myers||Jalil Anibaba||Matt Besler||Seth Sinovic|
|Second String||Igor Juliao||Ike Opara||Ike Opara||Bernardo Anor|
|Third String||Jalil Anibaba||Kevin Ellis||Kevin Ellis||Kevin Ellis|
|Fourth String||Kevin Ellis||Erik Palmer-Brown||Erik Palmer-Brown||Jacob Peterson|
This is the current depth chart for Sporting defensively and they're actually pretty well set here. The acquisition of Jalil Anibaba gives them a starting option if they choose, or he can be the backup while Ike Opara starts at centerback. He is a lot like Kevin Ellis where he can play all around the back line and is very valuable in that way.There is a discussion to be had as to whether Opara or Anibaba will get the call to start next to Besler, so we arbitrarily went with Anibaba just to fill out the depth chart.
This depth chart assumes everyone is healthy. If Chance Myers is not ready to go for the start of the season after suffering a torn achilles, that obviously changes things. As it stands now, however, Sporting seems pretty set defensively both with their starters and their depth. They're able to go four-deep at each of the positions and the new acquisitions fit in nicely to the team. Sporting probably won't have to focus on players here for the rest of the offseason unless they decide to bring in a big-name centerback to start next to Besler.
|Attack Midfielder||Box-to-Box||Defensive Midfielder|
|Starters||Benny Feilhaber||Paulo Nagamura||Jorge Claros|
|Second String||Graham Zusi||Bernardo Anor||Mikey Lopez|
|Third String||Bernardo Anor||Benny Feilhaber|
|Fourth String||Jimmy Medranda||Mikey Lopez|
Benny Feilhaber is, without a doubt, the starter at attacking midfield and Graham Zusi can fill in there as well if need be. The only problem with that is it takes away an attacker from the right wing, which we will discuss in the next section.The midfield is where things get a little more dicey. At the top they are pretty good with basically the same starting lineup they ended the season with. The depth, however, gets tricky, especially at the defensive midfielder position.
Mikey Lopez is really the only option to slide into the defensive midfield is Claros is unavailable and, considering his history with the Honduran national team, there will be times this season where Claros is unavailable. Bernardo Anor alleviates some pressure off of the box-to-box spot but Sporting will probably be looking for another piece to that puzzle.
|Left Winger||Center Forward||Right Winger|
|Starters||Jacob Peterson||Dom Dwyer||Graham Zusi|
|Bernardo Anor||Claudio Bieler|
Yes, Jacob Peterson is currently the starting option at left winger. He started opening day 2014, so he may as well start opening day 2015. Sporting is likely looking for someone who can be an immediate starter on the left after they ran through a rotation of guys including Soony Saad, Toni Dovale, Sal Zizzo and CJ Sapong, depending on who was available. The inconsistency at this position will probably be a focal point in rebuilding the forward depth chart in this offseason.
I included a question mark at center forward since Robb Heineman said in his interview with Kevin Keitzman on Dec. 15 that there was a new forward signed to back up Dom Dwyer. While there can be assumptions made that this means Claudio Bieler is gone, he is still currently on the roster so we'll put the question mark below him until a name surfaces.
With Saad, Sapong and Zizzo gone, there is no one to backup Graham Zusi at the right wing so a move will likely be made to get some depth there.
With Andy Gruenebaum and Eric Kronberg gone, Jon Kempin is the only goalkeeper on Sporting KC's roster. He spent most of the year in Oklahoma City, although he did make a couple of starts when Kronberg and Gruenebaum went down with injuries. Another part of Heineman's aforementioned interview was saying that there was a done deal with a new goalkeeper. Once again, we don't know the name of the new player so he'll just remain as a question mark on the depth chart.
It is highly, highly unlikely that Kempin is the opening day starter in 2015. It's likely that this new keeper is Luis Marin, who has been rumored to join Sporting KC. Sporting still need to plug in a second goalkeeper, whether above or below Kempin on the depth chart, to round out the position.
Filling the holes
Based on the depth charts, this would be the opening day lineup in 2015.
This is not a terrible lineup, but there are definitely improvements to be made. The priority position signings, in my opinion, should be at these positions.
1) Defensive Midfielder Starter or Depth
2) Starting Goalkeeper
3) Starting left winger
4) Right-Wing Depth
5) Box-To-Box Depth or Nagamura replacement
6) Goalkeeper Depth
There are ample opportunities to acquire some of these positions, whether with veterans or new players. Here are the upcoming events that Sporting can take some new members for the club.
December 18: MLS Re-Entry Draft Stage 2
Sporting Kansas City passed in the first stage of the Re-Entry draft, as did 17 other clubs. There is still a large list of players who had their options declined by their clubs available for selection. Here's a full list of the players available. Sporting will have the ninth pick available in this draft if they choose to take a player.
January 15: MLS SuperDraft
Sporting will have a lot of chances to pick up players in the 2015 SuperDraft. They will have the 10th, 12th and 20th picks in the first round alone due to the trades of Teal Bunbury and CJ Sapong, as well as their natural pick. They will have the 30th overall pick in the second round after dealing Michael Thomas, losing their original pick in the trade for Benny Feilhaber. They will have the 53rd and 74th picks overall in the third and fourth rounds respectively to complete the draft. The SuperDraft will add six new players to Sporting, should they choose to sign them.
The roster will continue to change in the three months leading up to the season. Peter Vermes has shown an ability to find unknown or previously inept players and turn them into solid contributors. With 11 spots currently open on Sporting KC's roster, Vermes will have a lot of players to work with as Sporting KC heads into the next season.