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A look at the depth and position battles as Sporting KC heads into the season

A few players are locked into their spots but Sporting KC has a lot of player flexibility

Besler has no worries, he will be starting
Thad Bell

With the season rapidly approaching it seems like a good time to take a look at the depth chart and who is battling for what positions. In addition to the players currently on Sporting Kansas City’s roster, we included two players from their USL team.

Both Felipe Hernadez and Kuzain are SKC Academy graduates on USL contracts with Swope Park Rangers. The two midfielders are 19 and saw considerable time with Sporting KC in the preseason. They have to be in consideration for earning first team contracts.

Goalkeeper: One of the easiest spots to determine, without a doubt or a question, MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Tim Melia goes into the season with the starting spot. Before the trade of Andrew Dykstra to Colorado, there would have been a question of who was second in line. I would have given it to Zendejas based on ability but Dykstra would have made a good case with his experience. Rookie Eric Dick has huge potential but will likely spend most of the season at Swope Park getting experience.

Position battle: None

  1. Tim Melia
  2. Adrian Zendejas
  3. Eric Dick

Right back: Veteran Zusi is the starting right back, that is clear as long as he is healthy. Young homegrown Lindsey is the future and could see some time this year but it would not be surprising to see him at Swope Park getting in games. Recently signed Brad Evans, ’if’ he is healthy, could be the multi-positional backup on the bench. Colton Storm played well for the Rangers last year but might be the odd man out for playing time.

Position battle: the only battle is for who is the backup now

  1. Graham Zusi
  2. Brad Evans
  3. Jaylin Lindsey
  4. Colton Storm
Thad Bell

Centerback: Besler or Opara is the number one, does it matter which one we list first? They will both start unless hurt or called up to the national team. Who is the first one to fill in is the question. Didic has the experience of being in the system for a couple years and Amor has looked good so far in preseason. As the season goes on and Amor gets used to KC it will be an interesting battle for the first backup. Just like at right back Evans could be on the bench to come on for injuries. Further down the list, draft pick Smith has the edge over homegrown Lewis who will probably be at the Rangers most of the year. If Ellis was going to be around he would probably slot in fourth on the depth chart. Musa may also be moved before the season.

Position battle: Competition for the first and second backups

  1. Matt Besler
  2. Ike Opara
  3. Brad Evans
  4. Amer Didic
  5. Emiliano Amor
  6. James Musa – Will probably not be around for start of season
  7. Graham Smith
  8. Matt Lewis
  9. Kevin Ellis – Will probably not be around for start of season

Left Back: Preseason lineups can be misleading and it might just be an experiment but it looks like Lobato is edging out Sinovic to start. Medranda has been injured for most of the preseason and did not look good there against New England but has been a capable left back in the past. Do not be surprised if ‘Steady Eddie’ Seth starts a fair amount of games where defense is key or if Medranda fights for that spot either.

Position battle: The best battle, all three could win, all three could start and probably will at some point

  1. Cristian Lobato
  2. Seth Sinovic
  3. Jimmy Medranda

Defensive mid: No question Ilie is the #6 for Sporting KC, but who backs him up? Felipe can play there, mister utility veteran Evans has played there before as well. Musa played well and was signed from Swope Park last year, making Mustivar irrelevant but has disappeared lately and may officially disappear soon. SKC Academy grad Kuzain may be the future for SKC but is not on an MLS contract.

Position battle: Ilie wins but who fills in?

  1. Ilie Sanchez
  2. Felipe Gutierrez
  3. Brad Evans
  4. James Musa –Will probably not be around for start of season
  5. Kuzain – Swope Park

Center mid/box-to-box: The #8, box-to-box role for SKC and the #10 role can overlap quite a bit. While veteran Espinoza will probably get the starts, newcomer Felipe may actually be better in that role. Ultimate utility man Medranda seems like a good fit for this spot as well.

Position battle: Espinoza (or Felipe?)

  1. Felipe Gutierrez
  2. Roger Espinoza
  3. Jimmy Medranda
  4. Graham Zusi
  5. Felipe Hernandez - Swope Park
  6. Kuzain – Swope Park

Attacking mid: Since Felipe’s arrival he has been the #10 in the preseason, but before he arrived Croizet filled that role. Lobato saw a little time there last year and could fill in. It is another spot that Medranda played last year when Feilhaber was out so he could be there as well. While it is unlikely, Zusi could be pulled from the defense as well. Busio might see some MLS time this year but more likely to be down at Swope Park.

Position battle: Felipe has the upper hand but Croizet might fit better

  1. Felipe Gutierrez
  2. Yohan Croizet
  3. Cristian Lobato
  4. Jimmy Medranda
  5. Graham Zusi
  6. Gianluca Busio
  7. Felipe Hernandez – Swope Park
  8. Khiry Shelton
  9. Zach Wright

Right: Vermes has played Croizet there since Felipe arrived but there is no denying the speed of Gerso can be very useful there. Scottish Winger Russell can play either side but has mostly started on the left although it sounds like he prefers the right side. Wright will probably get a lot of time with Swope Park but could make a case for some time.

Position battle: A good battle, Croizet has the lead but Gerso wants to play

  1. Yohan Croizet
  2. Gerso Fernandes
  3. Johnny Russell
  4. Zach Wright
  5. Jimmy Medranda
  6. Graham Zusi
Gerso will be fighting for playing time
Thad Bell

Center: The big-signing, goal-scoring #9 so many wanted has not materialized yet but the quiet trade to pick up Shelton added some competition for sure. Shelton seems to be the favorite at the moment but that doesn’t rule out Rubio taking the starting spot back. Russell would not mind getting time here either. Belmar is probably the next best option on the roster at the moment.

Position battle: Another good battle, Shelton appears to have the spot but don’t count out Rubio. Or Russell if Salloi performs well.

  1. Khiry Shelton
  2. Diego Rubio
  3. Johnny Russell
  4. Kharlton Belmar
  5. Zach Wright
  6. Gianluca Busio

Left: They did not sign winger Russell to not see him play so he will most likely start with Salloi pushing him hard for time. Gerso mainly plays right in the inverted wing style Vermes likes but could easily switch to the left and cross into the center.

Position battle: Russell but Salloi ready to take it back

  1. Johnny Russell
  2. Daniel Salloi
  3. Gerso Fernandes
  4. Cristian Lobato
  5. Kharlton Belmar
  6. Zach Wright