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Question of the Day: Number 9 depth

Nemeth has looked good in preseason bit does it temper the desire for another center forward

Thad Bell

One of the biggest questions surrounding Sporting Kansas City headed into the 2019 season has been the center forward spot. Okay, it is a question a lot of years for a lot of teams but especially this year for Sporting KC. Again…

The two players that mostly filled the 9 spot for Sporting KC in 2018 are gone, Khiry Shelton signed in Germany and Diego Rubio was traded to Colorado, leaving only Krisztian Nemeth from last year. SKC added Erik Hurtado in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps as depth at the center forward spot.

Despite Sporting KC scoring at a prolific rate in 2018, many felt that the 9 position was the big weakness in the attack. Endless debate (and it is still going on) over Shelton’s intangibles versus Rubio’s scoring ability, Rubio’s starting versus his coming off the bench, Shelton involving others better vs Rubio’s nose for goal.

When Nemeth was with Sporting Kansas City in 2015, he was tied for second in goals with Benny Feilhaber at 10 goals each. Dom Dwyer led with 12 goals and the team tallied a total of 48 goals. In 2018 Sporting KC scored 65 times in MLS play with Daniel Salloi leading the way with 11, Johnny Russell with 10, Rubio added 8, Felipe Gutierrez 7, Gerso 5 and the rest spread out across the roster.

The success for Nemeth came mostly from the wing in 2015. While he did slide into the 9 spot a bit, the center forward role was Dom Dwyer’s almost exclusively.

Bringing Nemo back

Most fans did not want to see Nemeth leave after the 2015 season and many wanted to bring the Hungarian attacker back at any opportunity. When Nemeth returned to MLS from his time in Qatar, New England ended up with his rights. Perhaps his time in an inferior league or the style of the Revolution played a part but he struggled and did not regain his form from 2015.

Sporting KC acquired Nemeth from New England last year, in what seemed to be a move for depth and insurance for the playoff run. After Sporting KC re-acquired him, he definitely did not return to his scoring ways of his first stint in Kansas City despite sliding in his preferred 9 position. In a free flowing attack, Nemeth never looked like he was in synch in that center forward spot. He did contribute a goal and an assist over nine games (386 minutes) but never looked as effective as many hoped.

2015 vs 2019 Preseason

In the 2015 preseason, Krisztian Nemeth had five goals and an assist over six games (299 minutes). In 2019 he has played in four games (270 minutes) and again has five goals and an assist. In fewer games and slightly less minutes, Nemeth has equaled his total from the 2015 season when he looked so good for SKC. In fairness, SKC played a couple more MLS teams in 2015 than this year but some of the lineups he faced were not of great quality either.

One reason Nemeth played a little less than his team mates this year is he had surgery to correct an issue that may have slowed him down last season.

Looking good (so far)

Here in Kansas City we were only able to watch one match from preseason but in that game Nemeth looked good. He factored into all four goals for Sporting KC, scoring twice and was involved in the passing buildup to the others.

His first goal was when he held up outside of the box while others made runs and then made himself available for the pass from and putting the shot into the spot where the keeper just came from. The second was late in the game when his run fooled the defender allowing him to go 1v1 with the keeper. A cheeky chip and a stoppage time celebration later and you could see the confidence that was lacking in 2018.

Perhaps even more impressive than the two goals was his combo play and movement with the rest of the team.


Nemeth is the clear starter at the 9 spot at the moment. Vermes will rarely say someone is the starter, usually hedging that there is competition for all spots but he has so far indicated Nemeth is the guy. Hurtado is there for depth and different situations to stretch the defense with his speed and work rate.

Of course they are not the only ones that can fill in if needed. Daniel Salloi played there a bit last year and he definitely has the scoring ability and passing touch needed. Yohan Croizet can slide in although he would be more of a false 9 according to Vermes. Johnny Russell or Kelyn Rowe could probably fit in as well for a while. Youngsters Gianluca Busio or Tyler Freeman can both play there but few would want to put them into the starting role just yet.

Question of the day:

With Nemeth’s apparent good run of form in preseason, what is the mood on SKC’s center forward spot? Are we still mad that Vermes did not go sign a big name high scoring 9? Or is Nemeth what we needed? Let us know in the poll and comments.


With Nemeth’s apparent good run of form in preseason, what is the mood on SKC’s center forward spot?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Still mad, SKC absolutely should have brought in a big money number 9!
    (24 votes)
  • 18%
    Not happy, should have added more depth to backup Nemo.
    (28 votes)
  • 28%
    Not bad, more depth would be good but Nemeth should be good for 10-12.
    (44 votes)
  • 30%
    Feeling better, Nemeth should knock in 12 or more but a little more depth would make me happy.
    (47 votes)
  • 6%
    All good, Nemo can be in the 15-20 club and SKC should compete for the Supporters Shield!
    (10 votes)
153 votes total Vote Now