The year 2018 is coming to a close, it had its exciting moments and those that caused frustrations for fans. Back in January I made my wishes for the year 2018, now with it on its way out it’s a chance to review those wishes and whether they came true or not.
1. Silverware: Sporting Kansas City didn’t win any silverware in 2018. The club fell in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup to eventual champions, the Houston Dynamo. The club finished first in the Western Conference in the regular season, but fell to the Portland Timbers on aggregate in the Western Conference final.
2. A home playoff game: Sporting KC had stated over and over in 2018 that their goal for the season was to host a playoff game at Children’s Mercy Park, their first since hosting MLS Cup 2013. That came true for the team in 2018 as they finished first in the Western Conference. The end result was the 4-2 win over Real Salt Lake on November 11th. Kansas City jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first 20 minutes thanks to goals from Diego Rubio and Daniel Salloi. Salt Lake’s pressure after the second goal eventually found a goal to make it 2-1.
KC quickly re-established their two goal lead after Ilie Sanchez scored a panenka against Nick Rimando to make it 3-1. Salt Lake again pulled back to within a goal thanks to a goal from Damir Kreilach in the 72nd. Salt Lake continued to look for an equalizer that would send them through on aggregate, but in second half stoppage time, Salloi scored his second goal of the game with a no look finish to make it 4-2 and seal KC’s passage.
Unfortunately, given a second home game KC lost 3-2 to the Portland Timbers in a game they had to win to make MLS Cup. The wish came true but the final result probably wasn’t exactly what KC fans were looking for.
3. A striker that will score 13 or more goals: Kansas City made many comments about trying to find a center forward who could be the team’s primary goal scorer. The team was never able to get that high profile goal scorer though they tried, but they were able to set a team record for goal scoring in a single season, scoring 65 in 2018. They had 16 different players score a goal in league play in 2018, led by Daniel Salloi with 11 goals. Salloi ended up scoring 16 goals in all competitions as he scored three playoff goals and added two in the US Open Cup in 2018. So while this result wasn’t exactly the wish coming true, KC got the results they wanted in the end with the goal scoring by committee.
4. Play the kids: In 2018, the average age of players that were on the field for Kansas City actually went up from 2017. KC’s average age of players on the field was 27.4 in 2018, up from 26.8 in 2017. While KC’s team as a whole was older this year, the team handed debuts to three teenagers in 2018. Before this year only eight teenagers have appeared for Kansas City.
Gianluca Busio, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal, and Jaylin Lindsey were all handed their debuts in 2018, becoming the youngest, seventh youngest, and third youngest players to start a game for Kansas City respectively. Busio also became the youngest player to record an assist or score a goal for the club in 2018.
Overall though the amount of minutes given to players 23 or younger for the club didn’t increase much from 2017. In 2018, only about 10% of available minutes went to players 23 or younger, the vast, vast majority of those minutes went to Daniel Salloi, playing 2,290 minutes, the next closest was Lindsey who played 555 minutes. While the minutes haven’t increased much, unlike in prior years when a question could be asked of who was genuinely going to get the minutes as a young player, there are a number of options on the team in 2019.
5. SPR figure out their identity: Overall, Swope Park had a decent season, making the playoffs for the third straight season, though it didn’t include a trip to the USL finals for a third straight season. Paulo Nagamura’s comments had made it sound like the club was more interested in getting younger academy and younger players in general on the field.
While they got some players like Wilson Harris, Sebastian Cruz, Camilo Benitez, and Roman Knox time, only Harris played more than 10 times for the club. At the same time, the club had four players 25 or older on the roster that played a combined almost 7,800 minutes for the club (not counting players loaned to Swope Park from KC).
One of those was Hadji Barry, who had a fantastic season for Swope, but at 25, and now in Israel, any development in KC is out the window. Hopefully, like with the younger players on Sporting’s roster, younger players can begin to earn more time with Swope in 2019.
6. US national team returns to KC: The USWNT returned to Kansas City in 2018 as part of the 2018 Tournament of Nations facing off against Japan in the second leg of a double header that also featured Brazil and Australia. A sell out crowd saw the US women win 4-2 on the back of an Alex Morgan hat trick with Megan Rapinoe rounding out the scoring for the US in a tournament that they won. While the men didn’t play in KC in 2018, they will also return in 2019 as part of the 2019 Gold Cup, which is returning to KC for the third time since Children’s Mercy Park opened.
7. Comets improve performance: Unfortunately, the Comets performance in 2018 didn’t improve on the way they started the 2018 season. The Comets finished the 2017-2018 season with a 5-7 record in 2018 and are off to a 2-4 start in the 2018-2019 season. 7-11 in a calendar year isn’t great news for the club, who also missed the playoffs for the first time last season. Maybe they’ll hit their stride in 2019. They’re currently third in the five team South Central division, but have plenty of time to catch up. In other good news, outside their four goal opening day loss to Milwaukee, the Comets have lost their other three games by a combined four goals, so they’re keeping things close.
8. Sign of future for women’s professional soccer in KC: Unfortunately the only real sign for the future of the women’s professional game in Kansas City was the sellout crowd for the US women’s game vs Japan. There was no news about a potential return of a women’s professional team to Kansas City unfortunately.