With 2018 here and having recapped my 2017 wishes, here’s a look at my wishes for 2018.
1. Silverware: As always, this is the number one wish for 2018. Seeing Sporting Kansas City win silverware never gets old.
2. A home playoff game: Unfortunately while silverware has become a staple at the top of my lists as the years go by, this has cemented itself in the second spot on the list. KC hasn't hosted a home playoff game since MLS Cup 2013 and while the club stated over and over again that a home playoff game was the priority in 2017, the club didn't get the job done and it led to a fourth straight early exit from the playoffs.
3. A striker that will score 13 or more goals: Goal scoring is an area that KC desperately needs to improve on in 2018, the club's leading goal scorer in 2017 was Gerso Fernandes, who surprised with his eight goals for the club, but he wasn't expected to be the club's leading scorer in 2017. He was expected to be that secondary goal scorer the club needed. Now the club needs to fill their primary scoring role after the trade last season of Dom Dwyer. Last year, 18 players scored 13 or more goals in league play in MLS. Kansas City meanwhile was one of only two playoff teams last season who did not have a player score 13 or more goals. The other team was the Seattle Sounders who had one player (Clint Dempsey) that scored 12, and another (Will Bruin) who scored 11. The team has said heading into the offseason that they are looking to bring in attacking players to improve on the club's 40 they scored in 2017, 18th of 22 teams in those standings. If they can't find a forward in the market to bring in, can Diego Rubio fill that hole? I personally have my doubts on that.
4. Play the kids: Before the 2017 season, MLS came out with the average age of each team, and Kansas City was the fifth youngest team at 25.74. Unfortunately a lot of the youth on KC's team didn't get a lot of time in 2017, of the minutes available to play in MLS play, 44% of those minutes went to six players (Tim Melia, Matt Besler, Seth Sinvoic, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza, and Benny Feilhaber) who are over the age of 30. Meanwhile, just 10% of the available minutes went to players who were under the age of 23 this season (Daniel Salloi, Latif Blessing, Erik Palmer-Brown, Kevin Oliveira, and Igor Juliao). Of those five players, only one, Salloi, looks like will still be with the club in 2018. Even if you jump up to players under the age of 24, which would add in Jimmy Medranda, only 16% of the available minutes this year went to players under the age of 24. In 2018, KC needs to try to get their young players more playing time. The club has two new homegrown players on their roster (Gianluca Busio and Jaylin Lindsey) and while Busio is just 15, Lindsey will be turning 18 in early 2018 and should challenge for some time at right back behind Zusi. Hopefully some other young players get time as well.
5. SPR figure out their identity: Swope Park has been to two straight USL finals, but at the same time as they enter their third season, they are doing it with their third different coach. While top to bottom all of Sporting plays the same lineup, Swope Park has spent time bringing players along to build them up to the first team, like Tyler Pasher and Amer Didic. They've always had some older, more experienced players around as well, available to work with the younger players and give some USL experience. Comments made when Swope announced Paulo Nagamura as their new head coach though made it sound like Sporting was going to go with a style that saw more academy players and younger players get time with Swope. If that is indeed the route that Swope is going to take this year, then embrace it fully and go with it. Bring players along to the first team, get more time to players like Max Rugova, who has apparently turned down a contract offer from Swope Park, or a player like Leroy Enzugusi, a player who spent time with SPR before going off to college in the fall.
6. US national team returns to KC: 2017 was the first year since the opening of Children's Mercy Park that the club did not host the US men's or women's national team in a game. In 2018 the KC opens the new National Training Center in Kansas City, KS which will hopefully see the full national team return to Kansas City in some form in 2018.
7. Comets improve performance: The Kansas City Comets have had a rough 2017-2018 season after a tumultuous offseason where the club's future was very much in doubt after ownership issues, the club lost a number of key players whether to other clubs (Ramone Palmer, Robert Palmer, John Sosa) or to other professions. The club has struggled this year with just two wins through their first 10 games and look quite likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since the club's re-birth for the 2010-2011 season. Improvement in the second half of the season will give fans hope that the club's future is bright and the main issue for the struggles this season was the questions about the club's future. What certainly won't hurt, is that the Comets don't have any more games against the Milwaukee Wave, who have handed the Comets four of their eight losses this year.
8 Sign of future for women's professional soccer in KC: This one may be a big stretch, but this year was rough for FC Kansas City fans as the club struggled through an ownership change, struggled on the field after an injury to forward Amy Rodriguez, and then saw their club fold and the rights to the club go to Salt Lake. A wish for there to be some kind of sign of the women's pro game potentially returning to Kansas City. Reports were that KC was originally in negotiations to take over FCKC but in the end did not purchase the club, maybe interest will return and the club can look to get involved in the women's game.