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Sporting Kansas City Season Preview: Midfield

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What could the Sporting Kansas City midfield look like this 2017 season?

MLS: Portland Timbers at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

With Sporting Kansas City set to kickoff their 2017 campaign this Saturday against D.C. United the staff here at The Blue Testament got together and voted on who we believe will be the starters in Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3 system. We started with goalkeepers and then moved on to defense. Today, the midfield gets it’s turn.

For the past two seasons Sporting KC’s midfield has featured the same three familiar faces, but that is going to change this 2017 season. Sporting went out and acquired a defensive mid that flew under the radar for most clubs in MLS in Ilie Sanchez, but where does he fit into this situation? Has Sporting Kansas City finally found some depth in that #10 role? Are there any young faces that we could see for Sporting this season? These are very important questions that need to be answered.

Starting Lineup

Sporting Kansas City v Seattle Sounders Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The very apparent first team group that has been playing together in the midfield is Ilie Sanchez behind Roger Espinoza and Benny Feilhaber. Feilhaber had a great display for the U.S. national team this January and appears to have quite a bit of magic left at the age of 32. The one thing that you can always count on with Roger is that he’s going to be the work horse and that hasn’t changed either, but what has changed is who will be sitting behind these two.

Ilie Sanchez was signed by Sporting this winter. This winter transfer window saw lots of big names from South America signed to various MLS sides. While it may have flown under the radar at first I can promise you it won’t for long. Ilie has been everything that you would expect from a FC Barcelona academy product: quality first touch, incredible vision, and in that #6 role, a destroyer when he has to be. This guy is truly “Uri 2.0” and he will take this midfield to completely new level.

Substitutes

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Sporting KC at Minnesota United Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

With the acquisition of Ilie Sanchez comes midfield that not only has depth, but depth at the defensive mid spot. I don’t think Soni is simply a bench player this season (he may very well start the first game of the year, we just voted as a staff he wouldn’t). I foresee him still getting somewhere between 15 to 20 starts this season giving much needed rest to not only Sanchez, but also to aging Espinoza and Feilhaber as well. You want to talk about a tough lock to crack, imagine being an apposing side trailing late trying to crack a midfield that contains Mustivar and Sanchez.

Judging by what we’ve seen in preseason it appears that Jimmy Medranda is being given a chance in that play-making #10 role for SKC. I’m a big fan of this, finally having a difference maker coming off the bench late on when a 32-year-old Benny Feilhaber is gassed will bode well for Sporting. The one question that could be asked of this midfield, is with the waiving of Benji Joya, who is the back up at that box-to-box midfield role?

Potential on the Horizon

If you are looking for a reason to watch Swope Park Rangers this year look no further than Kevin Oliveira. Kevin Oliveira had his season cut short last year with a knee injury, but even in just 15 games he still did enough to make the USL’s Top 20 Under 20 list (he came in at second overall). If Oliveira picks right up where he left off last season I don’t think it’s out of the question that we see him make a U.S. Open Cup appearances this season.

In Conclusion

Overall it appears that Vermes has this team set up nicely as far as starters and substitutions go. Sporting finally has bench options at attacking mid and much needed depth at the defensive mid position. The only question is who plays that box-to-box midfield role, but even then it could be argued that Mustivar could do a serviceable job. Lastly if you’re one of those looking to the future, and wondering about who takes over for an aging Benny Feilhaber, keep an eye on Kevin Oliveira this season with Swope Park Rangers.