Right off the bat, SKC won't repeat as MLS Cup champions. The league has gotten a whole lot deeper and I just don't think the magic will be there for another string of historic, come from behind winners. However, I think this team has the fitness and depth to make a run at the Supporter's Shield. I also see them going deep into the US Open Cup and repeating as group winners in Champions League. My dream prediction is getting a shock 2-0 win over Cruz Azul at home and holding them to a 1-0 win in Mexico City, sending shockwaves through the league. I believe the fitness can match in season and in form Azul, and hopefully, weather will play a factor as well.
Getting to the knock out round was good, but failing to win a match at home has SKC up against the toughest team remaining in Cruz Azul, and expectation for me are low. A home draw and a road loss would be acceptable I think.
2014 MLS Season
Hard to say SKC aren't going to be favorites. A boring off season may not be very exciting (I guess that's sort of the definition of boring) but with little attrition outside of the retirement of Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting will be one of the teams to beat. The big ? will be how well does Kronberg fill in, and if the answer is not well, how long will Vermes give him before it's Gruenebaum's turn? With the defense more or less unchanged, barring any real injury, it's hard to imagine a style change for the best defense in MLS. And if the offense starts clicking with guys like Bieler and Dom, Sporting will be damn good. The MLS is largely unpredictable and there's plenty of other good teams around, but I expect a top third finish for SKC, comfortably into the playoffs and avoiding the wild card games. What happens in the playoffs, I dare not guess.
Even with the potential for a hectic schedule with CCL matches early and the WC break, it's gotta be a deep run in this competition for me. There's good talent and depth on the bench that should be tested, and should be expected to pass. Faltering before the semifinals would be disappointing in my book.
At least nine points is a must. Top half finish of all the groups. Avoiding a Liga MX team will make me breathe a lot easier
Not going to predict a win against the best team in Mexico right now but I would not be surprised of Sporting KC makes a good showing.
2014 MLS Season
Sporting KC should be in contention for just about everything. Vermes has the same squad (minus Nielsen) and they should still be playing at their peak. Probably missing Besler and Zusi (and maybe Benny) could hamper the Supporters Shield run a bit but that experience should help in the playoffs again. I would see SKC falling a little short of the Shield and making a deep run into the cup where it depends so much on luck and who plays best that day.
A fairly deep squad should allow Vermes to rotate players in and out of the Open Cup competition and guys like Lopez, Medranda and others should get plenty of time.
Winning on the road and at home (to avoid the Cruz Azul scenario again) should be high on Vermes plan at the moment. SKC should manage 3 wins and a draw and not have to face the best team in the knockout stage.
I do not expect a big signing before the window closes but I think Vermes will add a significant player in the summer window.
SKC will have two, maybe even three on the MLS 24 under 24 list for 2014. Oriol Rosell will move up to the near the top and Jimmy Medranda will surprise a few people in league play. It's even possible that Erik Palmer-Brown could appear as well if he get a few games in.
Speaking of Erik Palmer-Brown, I predict that Vermes will continue to refuse to sell him until the price is right and Erik and his family agree. But in the end, I think his rights will be sold on a provisional basis sometime by the end of the year.
It's always tough coming off a championship season because the team is no longer chasing, but they are defending. They have the target on their back and it becomes that much harder to defend. However, outside of Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City did not lose anybody from the team that won them the MLS Cup. Plus, Claudio Bieler and Benny Feilhaber are rumored to be in better shape than last year and are poised to have a big year.
In regards to the MLS regular season I believe Sporting Kansas City has to be looked at one of the contenders to win the Supporters Shield and to also win the MLS Cup. They return one of the strongest teams in the league, essentially the same team that was one point short of winning the 2013 Supporters Shield. However, the league is much better overall this year and the road to get to the silverware is much harder. I do think that Sporting KC will be in the running for the Supporters Shield but I'm not quite confident that they'll win. The same goes for the MLS Cup. Coming from behind was great in 2013, but I'm not sure if they can do it again in 2014. Regardless, they are definitely contenders and I expect them to be playing deep into November.
I see Sporting Kansas City shocking the world by advancing past Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals. Cruz Azul is a phenomenal team that has an extremely potent attack but coming to play in Kansas City in mid-March against the best defense in MLS two years running will not make it easy. I see Sporting KC jumping out 2-0 in the first leg then holding on in the second leg. Past then it's too tough to tell but if they can get past Cruz Azul they have a great shot to win it all. It'll be tough but I do see Sporting KC getting a win in the 2013-2014 edition. In the 2014-2015 tournament Sporting KC will get ten points after not getting a home win last year. They'll go on the road and win a game, draw the other, then win both games at home.
This will be the fourth least important tournament for Sporting KC this year, ensuring that it will be a reserve filled team until they get to the semifinals or finals. Because of this, I wouldn't be surprised to see another early exit for Sporting KC, especially if they run into another MLS team that hasn't won anything in awhile.