This is part one of a 31 part series that will look at 31 different narratives from the 2016 year in Kansas City soccer. Each day in December will have a new article.
On January 29, Krisztian Nemeth was transferred to Al-Gharafa SC.
That move had a huge impact on Sporting Kansas City in 2016. There will be an article written later about just how huge the loss of Nemeth was to the club going into the 2016 season, but the reason this article starts off with Nemeth is because his departure made the subjects of this piece all that more important.
One of the biggest needs for Sporting Kansas City going into the 2015-16 offseason was quality wingers, particularly to build depth with the attackers. The starting three up top was strong with Nemeth, Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer, but the backups were Jacob Peterson and Connor Hallisey. Sporting KC needed to bolster their depth.
They made progress with that. On December 14, they signed veteran forward Justin Mapp to the first free agent contract in Major League Soccer history. Mapp was a 14-year veteran who had spent four years with the Montreal Impact and had success outside of an injury-filled 2015. Mapp was looked on as a quality depth piece, since he had good creativity and could be a valuable substitute.
Then, on January 7, Sporting Kansas City acquired Brad Davis from the Houston Dynamo. Davis had tormented Sporting KC while in Houston as a set piece specialist and as one of the best assisters in league history. The 34-year-old was at the twilight of his career, but he could be a very valuable asset to Sporting KC in his final seasons.
Sporting KC looked good, finally, in terms of attacking depth. They had their starters, they had their depth and it was quality.
Then the Nemeth transfer happened. Suddenly, Brad Davis became the next man up and became the starting winger, and that depth became a little shorter.
Davis brought some excitement in the first few games. On March 21, Davis helped Sporting KC defeat Toronto FC with a 70th minute game-winning goal for his first career goal in a Sporting KC kit.
Davis would score two more goals the rest of the season. One in league play, one in US Open Cup play.
Meanwhile, Justin Mapp was hurt. Then as the season wore on, Mapp seemed to be perpetually hurt. He made his Sporting KC debut on May 2 as he subbed on for eight minutes. He did not play consistently and it wasn’t until July that he was brought on as a sub in a regular manner. He played in four straight matches until he picked up a calf injury and would not play for the remainder of the season. His $225k salary led to a total of six appearances and 42 minutes played.
Davis was more consistent. He played in 24 league games and started 14 of them. He had three goals and two assists in all competitions. However, he also picked up a couple of injuries as the season wore on an missed a handful of games here and there and didn’t play in the last three regular season matches, as well as the playoff game in Seattle.
Davis announced in late October that he would retire at the end of the season, and it was a foregone conclusion that Mapp’s option with the club would not be exercised. Both came to fruition.
For one season, Sporting KC took a chance on two aging wingers to see if they had any shine left. Now, Sporting KC is in a similar position to last offseason. They need wingers, and they need depth. Davis and Mapp once looked like possible answers, but the circumstances of 2016 were not kind to either of them.