If you want to talk about MLS Draft classes that have really panned out for Sporting KC I don't think there's much of an argument against 2008 and 2009 being among the best. In 2008 the then Kansas City Wizards drafted Chance Myers with the number one overall pick, and Roger Espinoza with the eleventh. In 2009 they drafted a home town kid that had gone off to play at Notre Dame named Matt Besler, and Graham Zusi (who actually had a shaved head at that time). These four are the longest tenured players on Sporting's roster and have a combined 32 years in Sporting or Wizard blue. I think you also have to put Seth Sinovic and Jacob Peterson also on this list of core players of the years, simply because they have a combined 237 MLS appearances for SKC. These guys have brought this club great glory during their time in Sporting/Wizard blue. They've brought the club 2 U.S. Open Cups, 1 MLS Cup, and Espinoza, Zusi, and Besler have played admirably on the world stage for their country when called upon.
I wanted to bring all of this to your attention before I possibly break your heart a little when you consider these next couple things. Except for Chance Myers at 28 and Jacob Peterson at 30, all of these guys are 29 years old. For most soccer players the peak age is usually right around 27. So has Sporting Kansas City seen the best that this group has to offer? I'm not sure what the right answer is quite yet.
Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic are no longer staples in the defense. Since Sinovic's concussion last year he struggled to get his starting position back from then rookie Amadou Dia, but now he is behind Jimmy Medranda who can produce magic on the ball that Sinovic can only dream of duplicating (not to mention they just signed Ever Alvarado). Chance Myers also has lost his starting job to Saad Abdul-Salaam who slowly but surely is offering more going forward, but has no where near the same ability as Myers. Personally I question Myers effort at times this season, and so has Vermes.
Graham Zusi has two more years on his $600,000 designated player contract. Zusi in the past two and a half seasons has only accumulated 8 goals and 16 assists, a huge drop off from his 2012 totals of 5 goals and 15 assists. As of recently Zusi has become less of a great passer and distributor of the ball, and more of a hard running or hard working winger, so basically a slightly more technical Jacob Peterson. That's right, right now we are currently paying $600,000 for a slightly more technical Jacob Peterson. Until this past weekend against Columbus Crew, I had seen Zusi with very little confidence on the ball, and an unwillingness to use those great distribution skills that he really was known for during 2012. Is this the decline of Zusi or just simply a lack of confidence and form?
The two that I think still have something to give are Espinoza and Besler. I think Espinoza is just as good as he's ever been. Espinoza has really made a living off being a work horse in the midfield, and even at 29 he still continues to be that for SKC. There's a very good reason why he was given the captains band when Besler was gone for COPA America, and that is because he sets a great example of what it means to play with pride for the crest on the jersey. As for Besler I feel as though he's been off this season. Maybe it's just because he's used to having a center back partner that is more of a destroyer and Nuno Coelho and Ike Opara just aren't that style of player. Either way I thought he did have a good showing at COPA America (even playing a bit out of position at left back), and I hope maybe he's feeling more confident and getting back to his old self.
I think Espinoza and Besler still have a year or two more of being real difference makers on this team, but I'm not sure if I can say the same for the rest. I think Sinovic has reached the end of his time as a Sporting player. With the transfer window opening, and Sporting's abundance of left back options, could he be a good trade piece for SKC? I don't really see Sporting moving Myers in the middle of the season. I think if they call it quits with him then it'll be after the season. $137,000 is what Jacob Peterson makes, and I just can't help that there's several players like Shea Salinas, a San Jose Earthquake winger, that offer better quality and have a similar price tag. As for Graham Zusi, I really don't know. Against Columbus he looked like the Zusi of old. So maybe he's got some confidence after being with the national team, but in my opinion I think it's time to say goodbye SKC fans.
Lastly, when I say that it might be time to get rid of this core it is not a slam on Peter Vermes. Vermes has done an exceptional job since taking over during the 2009 season, winning 3 pieces of hardware and taking the side to the playoffs the past five seasons. So while maybe I think that this core is done, I trust Vermes and I'm not ready to start using the hashtag #VermesOut anytime soon.