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Despite Sporting KC’s Youth, They are Built to Win Now

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A statistical (and possible a little emotional) look at why Sporting Kansas City will be good in 2017.

MLS: Sporting KC vs New York City FC Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has been made about how much younger (and faster) Sporting Kansas City have gotten in the offseason. Out are players who were old, slow, injured or all of the above in 2016 (Brad Davis, Justin Mapp) and in are much younger and faster players for 2017 (Gerso Fernandes, Latif Blessing, Tyler Pasher).

Let’s start with age. If you take a look at Sporting KC’s transaction tracker, there has been a lot of roster turnover since the Sounders stole that playoff goal by being offside in the MLS Cup Playoffs. 11 players have joined the team and 14 players have left (Christian Volesky being the only to do both). If we leave out Volesky, the average age of the players who left the team was 28.23 years and the average age of the players who joined is 23.7 years.

If you’d like to further manipulate the numbers (and I would) by removed players that left but never really played any significant minutes (or had significant pay) like Ever Alvarado, Emmanuel Appiah and Benji Joya and if you drop Alec Kann and Andrew Dykstra from the numbers (because be honest, no one wanted to make that switch), then it gets more drastic. With those alterations the average age of the players who left was a nice, clean 30 years and the average age of the new players dips slightly to 22.89 years. That’s over a seven year gap.

If you just look at the ages players who left and the players who joined it may appear that Sporting KC are in full rebuilding mode. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Of all the new players who joined the club, most of those young guys will not start. The players who appear to be likely starters are Gerso Fernandes and Ilie Sanchez. Both of them are 26-years-old and have significant experience abroad. The only new signing who may start on day one that is really young is Latif Blessing (he turned 20 in December).

The rest of the starters are anything but young. Here are the rest of the starters I imagine will play on day one (barring injury, we are looking at you Dom): Melia (30), Sinovic (30), Besler (30), Opara (28), Zusi (30), Espinoza (30), Feilhaber (32) and Dwyer (26). The average age of this cast of characters is 29.5 years old. Wow.

This is a team that isn’t rebuilding but reloading. In sports the old saying is it’s better to get rid of players a year too early instead of a year too late. Looking across the roster no one jumps out as someone that’s slowing down (though it’s never easy to see it coming).

The key is this team has strong veteran leadership where it counts, in the starting lineup. And these guys are mostly use to playing together. The fast and young players are mostly depth or squad rotational players who will be expected to come off the bench for a spark or to stretch the field. Players like Daniel Salloi, Tyler Pasher or Jimmy Medranda, who are all young and quick. They provide good depth and a good change of pace to the likely starters in front of them. That doesn’t even mention players like Saad Abdul-Salaam, Igor Juliao or Cameron Iwasa (who was a bit nicked up during preseason). All players that seem more likely to make an impact than the options that were coming off the bench (or worse—starting) last season.

Paul Tenorio says Sporting KC are a dark horse to win it all. I’m cautiously optimistic. Here is hoping I don’t regret those words in a few months.