The season is over and the cold, dark winter approaches. However, there is so much potential for Sporting Kansas City coming off their 2015 season. They won the US Open Cup, made the playoffs and turned a season with a lot of roster turnover into an exciting one. However, they have some holes to fill and needs to be met in the offseason to go into 2016 stronger than this year.
1) Re-sign Tim Melia
The number one priority is re-signing starting goalkeeper Tim Melia, just like everyone predicted at the beginning of the season. Melia has been absolute nails between the posts this year and has been the only constant in a back line full of inconsistencies. Jon Kempin needs full-time work, just not at the MLS level. He can get that with Swope Park Rangers and Melia can bridge the gap between now and when Kempin is ready. Melia has earned a new contract, and a substantial raise from his $80k salary this season.
2) Sign a centerback
Ike Opara should be back next season and should be the starter. However, Sporting KC needs to some quality behind him and Besler because of Opara's injury history and Besler's USMNT duties, so depth at centerback is needed. Kevin Ellis has been decent in the box offensively this season but his defense leaves a lot to be desired and he cannot be the next man up in 2016. This centerback also needs to have height. Saad Abdul Salaam is 6'4" but after him, the next tallest starter is Krisztian Nemeth at 5'11". Sporting needs more height in the box.
3) Forward depth
This offseason is going to be very interesting regarding the futures of Dom Dwyer and Krisztian Nemeth. Speaking if they were still on the roster come opening day 2016, however, the forward depth needs to be addressed. Bernardo Anor was plagued by injuries but never impressed. Connor Hallisey was uncreative and Jacob Peterson was a liability on offense more often than not. If Graham Zusi's slide continues, there needs to be someone who can come in and help on the attack. There needs to be someone who Vermes can bring off the bench as a sub and impact the game offensively. If Sporting KC sign a starting quality winger and a decent backup center forward they'll be in great shape.
4) Restructure Graham Zusi's contract
It's no secret that Graham Zusi's production has dipped in 2015 and that it's worth looking at restructuring his contract. Player 1 in the table above was Zusi's production in 2015. Player 2 was Benny Feilhaber's production since August 2. Zusi is getting older and has not been earning the designated player salary. While his defense is still there, he does not have the pace to be garnering that much cash. Two goals and four assists from a DP is unacceptable and the contract needs to be looked at. Sporting KC has an open slot right now, but it might be worth opening another one, which leads me to the next priority...
5) Give that money to Benny Feilhaber and Krisztian Nemeth
Benny Feilhaber was spectacular this year with ten goals and 11 assists. He was the most creative player on Sporting KC this year and he needs to be rewarded and enticed to stay with Sporting KC. Next year is the final year of his contract, but signing him up now would be prudent. The more pressing issue, however, is Krisztian Nemeth who is younger and getting experience on the national stage. Throwing a wheelbarrow full of money at him with a designated player contract either keeps him in Kansas City long-term or ups the transfer fee if the big European teams come knocking.
6) Make a defensive midfield decision
It is entirely possible that Amobi Okugo just needs a preseason with Sporting KC to adjust well to the team. If that's the case, he has shown the ability with Philadelphia to be a quality defensive midfielder and could be a very good backup to Soni Mustivar and the centerbacks. If Vermes feels that he won't improve with a preseason, and improve dramatically, then he needs to be given the boot and Sporting needs to find another backup center defensive midfielder. We've seen what happens to this team when the cog of the operation -- whether it's Rosell or Mustivar -- goes down and Sporting need someone who can step in and be more than a warm body.
7) Release Marcel de Jong, Mikey Lopez, and Jacob Peterson
Marcel de Jong has two left backs in front of him so there is no reason for Sporting KC to pay $191k for a third string left back. Mikey Lopez' salary will be on the books next season as he graduates from Generation Adidas and, behind Roger Espinoza, Paulo Nagamura and Jordi Quintilla, there's no need for Lopez' $172k. Jacob Peterson has shown to be a liability offensively and, while his flexibility can help in some situations, Sporting KC can find someone better for $130k. The combined $494k from releasing these three players can be used for finding better depth.
8) Sign a backup keeper
Jon Kempin will hopefully be getting full time minutes with Swope Park Rangers next year, which means that Tim Melia will need a second string keeper behind him in case of injuries and to play in early season US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League matches. They don't need to be a world beater, but someone along the skill level of Eric Kronberg or Andy Gruenebaum would be solid.
9) Make a decision at left back
Is Amadou Dia or Seth Sinovic Sporting KC's opening day starter in 2016? If it's Seth Sinovic, then keep Dia as the second string and Sporting KC is set. If it's Dia, Sporting KC needs to see if Sinovic is alright as the second string left back. If not, Sporting can try and trade him to a team that will have him as their starting left back, then Sporting can use the return on the trade for a backup. This is going to be a tough decision either way, but Sporting KC needs to make it.
10) Depth at attacking midfielder
Benny Feilhaber's end to the season saw him playing on fumes because there was really no one to step in and play at attacking midfielder. Whenever he was out due to yellow card accumulation or he needed to play defensive midfielder, Sporting KC went without an attacking midfielder and had two box-to-box players running the attack in the middle. Someone who can give Feilhaber a rest, particularly in Open Cup and Champions League matches, would be a tremendous help