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Sporting KC Cut Benji Joya and Christian Volesky

We analyze what it all means and question the logic behind both of these moves.

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Central FC at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

When Colton Storm signed to Sporting Kansas City just a few days ago the roster climbed to it’s cap of 28 players. That didn’t last. Today Sporting KC released midfielder Benji Joya and Christian Volesky. Both moves bring up a few questions.

Who is Roger Espinoza’s Backup?

Just 10 days ago I made the case that Joya was the guy to take over Paulo Nagamura’s job as Roger Espinoza’s primary backup. Throughout the preseason Joya looked pretty good (minus that 6-2 thrashing from the New England Revolution). He was all over the pitch, disrupting play and just generally hustling. It’s hard to imagine a poor showing in a game where he was surrounded by backups playing against the Revs starters would cost him his job.

It seems there has to be more to the story. This reminds me of Jordi Quintilla being cut out of nowhere (minus that Joya never sealed the winning of a trophy like Jordi). Joya seemed well liked, seemed to work hard and just generally seemed to fill a need.

It’s possible the performance the Soni Mustivar put forward in the final preseason game made Joya expendable. Mustivar was all over the pitch, constantly making interceptions and just generally looking good (minus a bad turnover or two that Soni is always good for).

It would appear that Sporting KC only have only five midfielders on their roster (if you count Jimmy Medranda, who spent nearly all of last season at left back). That’s not a lot of depth when Espinoza and Benny Feilhaber could both be called up for National Team duty for their respective countries at the same time.

This is a puzzling move and hopefully more light will be shed on this in the coming days and weeks.

Why Even Trade for Christian Volesky?

When news broke that SKC had traded for the rights of Christian Volesky from the Portland Timbers it seemed like a low risk, high reward move. Sporting only gave up a fourth round pick and they acquired a player who racked up 18 goals through two seasons in the USL. Even if he didn’t get onto the pitch for Sporting he would be decent depth or he could be loaned to the Swope Park Rangers. Instead he’s gone after a lackluster preseason where he was mostly played out of position.

The question is why even trade for him? His rights were apparently required on New Years Eve 2016, the last day Portland would retain the rights for a player they never signed after drafting him in the SuperDraft. Maybe he ends up signing directly with the Swope Park Rangers instead of being loaned down and taking up a valuable roster spot.

Who Fills These Last Two Roster Spots?

This move drops Sporting KC from 28 players to 26 (feasibly 25 players since Diego Rubio doesn’t appear to be counting against the total while he’s out injured). It seems likely Sporting would like to have some flexibility and may not want to immediately fill all the spots right away.

Another possible signing is looming right now. Amer Didic, from the Swope Park Rangers, was the only player who didn’t return to KC when the rest of the Swope Park Rangers did after the first phase of preseason. Didic actually stayed with SKC through the duration of preseason and actually got significant minutes. Didic also plays center back, a spot with questionable depth after the trading of Lawrence Olum to the Timbers.

The center back depth chart has likely starters Matt Besler and Ike Opara. Behind that is either Erik Palmer-Brown who has mostly been with the United States U-20’s going through World Cup qualification or Kevin Ellis who has been better but nothing if not inconsistent over the past few years. It seems very likely the U-20’s will qualify for the World Cup and that Besler will continue to get called into the senior National Team which would leave an often unhealthy Opara and Ellis alone at the CB spot. Didic may fill that hole.

Other possibilities include Kevin Oliveira, another standout for the Rangers who is recovering from a serious knee injury. My wife is holding out hope for a Jordi Quintilla return, but he just signed with Puerto Rico FC of the NASL, so that seems unlikely. There is always the possibility another player is out there waiting to fill that role too.


The Joya move, on the surface, doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. The midfield potentially lacked depth before this reduction in force and it seems the situation is only worse.

The Volesky trade and release ultimately don’t amount to much. The Timbers ultimately drafted Romilio Hernandez with the 80th pick that they acquired from Kansas City. He is currently listed on their U-23’s roster and most fourth round picks don’t do a whole lot.

We leave you with an updated look at the team’s roster.