With the 2017 season coming to a close for Sporting Kansas City’s “B Team” the Swope Park Rangers, it’s already time to turn our attention to 2018. The offseason in soccer is simply not long at all. As is evident by head coach Nikola Popovic already leaving the team. So there is no time to waste looking at SPR’s roster.
First, it should be noted, we’ve already covered Sporting KC, which will account for a lot of the players you think of as members of the Rangers. I recommend starting there first:
When you take out Amer Didic, Tyler Pasher, Adrian Zendejas, Colton Storm, Kevin Oliveira, Kharlton Belmar, Cameron Iwasa and James Musa it doesn’t leave a lot of big names that people will recognize. In fact, it only leaves 20 players total. All the guys above are on Sporting’s roster and would be welcome back with SPR without a doubt (except probably Iwasa) but who knows if they fit on SKC’s roster. I suppose it’s a possibility they get cut by Sporting and sign with Swope again, but that seems unlikely.
Of the 20 players on the roster, only 15 of them actually saw game minutes (Louis Bennett did but is no longer listed on the roster) as additional players like Kevin Ellis, Daniel Salloi, Latif Blessing and Erik Palmer-Brown were also loaned to Swope on occasion. That means Chase Bromstedt, Leroy Enzugusi, Will Little, Steven Tekesky and Patrick Wilkinson saw zero minutes in 2017. All of them but Little went to college. So I imagine they won’t be considered part of the roster in 2018 though they could always be Homegrown signings for SKC down the line. It’s unclear where Will Little was this year as he did play in 2016.
As for the remaining 15 players, I’m going to break them down into categories judging how likely they are to return. Keep in mind, in 2016 there were legit stars for SPR that everyone assumed would come back and did not (Ualefi, Ayrton, Kris Tyrpak). The United Soccer League is very volatile and roster turnover is very high. Despite back-to-back USL Finals appearances, both coaches have left (probably partially because of that success) and a huge percentage of the roster left. For example, look how bad I was at this when I analyzed the roster in 2016. I’ve learned from my failings.
Current Roster: Darrin MacLeod, David Greczek, Steven Tekesky
Definitely Back — None
Ouch, right? Adrian Zendejas is likely to continue to be the guy in between the posts, but he’s on Sporting KC’s roster so we aren’t covering that here.
Probably Back — MacLeod
Darrin MacLeod ended the season as the starter while Zendejas was sitting on the bench with SKC while Tim Melia was hurt. He didn’t look great at first, but he found his stride and even lead the team to a first round playoff victory. He deserves another look in 2018.
Maybe Back — Greczek
If you though MacLeod looked back, look no further than David Greczek. He was draft and cut by Sporting KC. He allowed six goals in only three starts and didn’t look like he could cut it in USL. That’s really harsh after such a short look, but that’s while we’ll say maybe he’s back.
Definitely Gone -- Tekesky
We already address Tekesky got zero starts and is currently in college at West Virginia where he has taken the starter job as a Freshman. No point in using a roster spot on a guy that doesn’t play.
Current Roster: Joe Amico, Oumar Ballo, Dakota Barnathan, Liam Doyle, Parker Maher
Definitely Back — None
Are you seeing a trend? There just aren’t a lot of sure things in the USL.
Probably Back — Barnathan
Though it was under the previous coach, Barnathan was the guy being paired with Amir Didic through the playoffs and he looked good next to him. Defense definitely wasn’t the problem in the playoffs. Also, he can play defensive midfielder. Positional diversity is important.
Maybe Back -- Maher, Ballo and Doyle
Oumar Ballo is the rare player with two years in SPR’s system. I honestly thought he took a step back at times in 2017 and he’ll be 27 in April of 2018. He’s unlikely to ever make it to Sporting KC, but he’s good depth in USL.
As for Doyle, he looked pretty good at times and a little lost at other times. He turns 26 next summer, so he’s also not young. He has a great long free kick. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see both of these guys gone.
Parker Maher I’d like to see back but he did just switch USL teams last offseason. The league is volatile and while he was good defensively, he leaves a lot to be desired offensively.
Definitely Gone — Amico
With Pasher, Maher and Storm he simply couldn’t get on the field as a fullback. He could end up coming back, but if the team was that impressed you’d think he’d have gotten more minutes and appearances (only two for 35 minutes).
Current Roster: Chase Bromstedt, Christian Duke, Felipe Hernandez, Will Little, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal, Patrick Wilkinson
Definitely Back -- Duke, Hernandez and Wan Kamal
The trend stops. If you count Oliveira and Musa, the midfield is probably the strongest part of this team. These are all SKC Academy guys and seem likely to stick around. I have been hard on Duke in the past but he took it to another level in 2017. He was the captain and a leader out there. He played every minute until his unfortunate injury in the USL Cup Final.
Hernandez and Wan Kamal got a huge step up in minutes this season and looked like they belong. Peter Vermes is fond of saying he hopes to have a Sporting KC Starting XI filled with Academy players. Gotta keep the kids around for that to happen.
Definitely Gone -- Little, Bromstedt, Wilkinson
Bromstedt and Wilkinson are off at college, so that’s by default. Will Little shockingly signed a pro contract and then got zero appearances. He’s listed as a midfielder but he’s practiced at fullback and winger. It’s possible he was hurt because he wasn’t consistently around practice but it definitely seems like a bad sign when you can even get some garbage time minutes.
Current Roster: Leroy Enzugusi, Mark Anthony Gonzalez, Robert Mirosavic, Lebo Moloto, Max Rugova, Nansel Selbol
Definitely Back -- Selbol, Rugova
Two more guys from the SKC Academy. Selbol put in a career high nine goals this season. He also had career highs in appearances, starts and minutes. He is a definite possibility to make Sporting KC one day. Rugova doesn’t even turn 18 until February. He had limited minutes but looks to have good potential.
Probably Back — Moloto
While Lebo Moloto is really more of a midfielder, he was asked to play center forward a lot in 2017. He did pretty good with seven goals but he still looks more like a false nine or a midfielder than a true center forward. The only reason he’s a probably is because it’s USL. He did well, but he’ll turn 28 early in next season. He definitely seems unlikely to make it to SKC and may want to try something else next year.
Maybe Back — Anthony-Gonzalez
I really like MAG. He’s looked good when healthy. He missed a lot of time at the end of the season and that’s a real shame as they could have used more offense in the playoffs. He also reportedly showed up to Sporting KC’s preseason out of shape in Tucson and that’s never OK with a Peter Vermes ran team. I hope he’s back.
Definitely Gone — Enzugusi and Mirosavic
Again, it’s just cause Enzugusi is off at college. He has the potential to be a future Homegrown signing.
As for Mirosavic, he just never found his way in KC. He looked good way back in preseason and he delivers a fine ball from a corner kick, but that’s all he did this year. He’ll start over somewhere else.
And even though he’s on SKC’s roster, Cameron Iwasa is definitely gone. He couldn’t stay on the field with their B Team. Shocking since he lead the Sacramento Republic in scoring the year prior.