The new year is underway and with that there are hopes for success all across the board for the soccer world. In Kansas City there are a number of things to hope for in 2019, here are my wishes for the new year for Sporting Kansas City, the Swope Park Rangers, the Kansas City Comets, and the national teams of the United States.
1. Silverware: Always the top wish for a new year, that Sporting Kansas City brings home some silverware. Last year Kansas City fell short of making MLS Cup, finished well outside the Supporters’ Shield race, and lost in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup to the eventually champions, the Houston Dynamo. In 2019, Kc has four trophies to go after with the CONCACAF Champions League added to the Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup, and US Open Cup.
2. Daniel Salloi continues to develop into club’s next star: Salloi had a break out season for Kansas City, leading the club in goals in league play, the Open Cup, and the playoffs, scoring 16 goals across all competitions in 2018. The performance saw him earn his first senior national team call up to Hungary, though he has not made his full national team debut yet. Hopefully 2019 is another strong season for Salloi and he continues to prove himself to be a reliable goal scorer for the club. With questions still surrounding the center forward position for Kansas City, Salloi continuing to produce will be a key for KC’s success in 2019.
3. At least 20 starts between KC’s teenage trio of Gianluca Busio, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal, and Jaylin Lindsey: I could add the club’s latest homegrown player signing, Tyler Freeman to this list as well, but I’ll stick with the three that were on the roster in 2018. Last year the trio of Busio, Kuzain, and Lindsey made 10 league starts for Sporting. Hopefully in 2019 the trio can double that mark and get to 20 starts in league play for the club. There are outside factors that could affect the trio’s ability to get 20 league starts, as Lindsey could very well miss time with the US U20 team as they will have the U20 World Cup in Poland from late May until mid-June. Busio meanwhile seems likely to miss time with the US U17 team as they look to qualify for the 2019 U17 World Cup, which will take place in October in Peru. Hopefully though the trio can get more time in 2019 and continue to push KC’s starters.
4. Continue to get playing time for younger players at Swope: In 2018, Swope Park gave about 7,800 minutes to players rostered to the Rangers who were 25 years or older, that doesn’t count the minutes given to players loaned from Sporting, like Kharlton Belmar (almost 1,800 minutes) and Brad Evans (282 minutes). In 2018, the average age of a player that appeared for the Rangers was 22.7 years old. Hopefully in 2019, the club can continue to get younger players time, both those on the Sporting roster like Busio, Kuzain, Lindsey, and Tyler Freeman, and those on the Swope Park roster like Felipe Hernandez and Wilson Harris.
5. Advance past Toluca in the CCL: This is going to be a tough one for Kansas City to accomplish. Toluca will be tough for Kansas City to defeat. The Mexican side finished 7th in the Apertura season and fell to eventually champions, Club America in the playoffs. Toluca has gone out and strengthened their squad by adding Argentine goal scorer, Emmanuel Gigliotti from Independiente, where he scored 21 goals in 49 appearances. Toluca is a very talented team that will cause plenty of problems for KC, and on top of that KC will be traveling to Toluca for the second game, a city with an elevation of 8,730 feet. Peter Vermes has stated he’s likely to use the approach of arriving as late as possible to the city for the game to try and negate the effects of the altitude, but Toluca is about 3,000 feet higher than the highest elevation KC travels to in the regular season (Dick Sporting Goods Park). I think KC can compete with them, but beating them will be a very tough task.
6. Comets make the playoffs: The 2017-2018 season was a rough one for the Comets as they missed the playoffs for the first time, finished with their fewest wins ever (seven) and their first losing season since their expansion season in 2010-2011. The 2018 portion of the 2018-2019 season hasn’t gone a lot better so far as the club sits at 2-4 through the first six games. They do though sit just a game back of the Florida Tropics, who sit in second place in the South Central Division. With 18 games still to be played this season, there is a lot of time for the Comets to make their way back to the playoffs, where they’d likely face a familiar foe in the Milwaukee Wave.
7. USMNT establish an identity under Gregg Berhalter: US Soccer has the man it seemed they wanted the whole time in former Columbus Crew coach, Gregg Berhalter, and the hiring process aside, it’s time for the team and federation to move forward. US Soccer spent a year on their coaching search in what felt like a wasted year with Dave Sarachan as coach. With Berhalter in charge now he needs to establish his identity for the team and help it to move on from the qualification failure for the 2018 World Cup.
8. USMNT wins the Gold Cup: A good way to help establish an identity for his team and to give some more confidence to fans would be for the US to win the 2019 Gold Cup. Not only would it be a bright point for the team and the fans, but it would also guarantee that the US qualifies for the 2021 Confederations Cup as they would have won both the 2017 and 2019 Gold Cup competition. Assuming CONCACAF doesn’t change their qualifying rules (stifle a laugh) that would mean the US would qualify automatically for the competition.
9. Another World Cup for the USWNT: The US Women will attempt to win their fourth World Cup this summer in France, and defend their championship that they won in 2015 in Canada. The tournament for them will start in Group F where they’ll play Thailand, Chile, and Sweden. It won’t be an easy road to winning another World Cup as hosts France are ranked third in the world and will be looking to equal the men’s team, who won this past year’s World Cup.