The new year is a couple days old and we’re less than 60 days before Sporting Kansas City’s season is supposed to kick off, the Kansas City Comets are reaching the real meat of their schedule for the 2019-2020 season and it’s an Olympic year. With all that in mind here are my wishes for 2020.
1. Silverware: Always number one, always want to see my team win trophies. After last year’s disappointing season, I want to see Sporting Kansas City lift a trophy in 2020. Obviously though to get silverware, you need to have a season...
2. A new CBA done before the season is supported to start: One of the big talking points for this offseason is the fact that the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association has expired and the two sides are negotiating for a new deal. This is seen as a big negotiation stage for the players as the league has continued to grow and expand bringing in more owners, more fans, and more money into the league. In the last CBA the players union got some concessions, getting some minor forms of free agency and a little more movement, but in the end many felt the players didn’t get enough and after the agreement was signed more allocation money came into the league for clubs to sign players. More freedom of movement and things like more chartered flights for players have been just a couple of things that have been brought up as points the players want to improve in this new CBA.
3. 15+ goals for Alan Pulido: I want to wish for a higher number but at the same time I’m also being slightly pessimistic in the number. I don’t think Pulido will come in and score Josef Martinez level goals, but 15 would have been good for the fifth most in the league in 2019 behind Carlos Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Martinez, and Diego Rossi. So, I’m hedging my bet a bit with my wish going for a number that Pulido has never reached in a league season but hoping against MLS defenses he can have success like Raul Ruidiaz and Brian Fernandez have had.
4. Daniel Salloi have closer to his 2018 goal total than his 2019 goal total: Like with Pulido’s goal total I’m sort of hedging my bet here. Things can’t be much worse for Salloi compared to how they were in 2019 scoring only one goal and adding only one assist. Salloi’s expect goal total in 2019 was 6.9. The difference of 5.9 was the worst in the league by over two goals (Danny Hoesen had the second worst G-xG at -3.86). Hopefully in 2020 Salloi can have a better season scoring wise. If he can be closer to his xG of 2019 and combine that with Pulido hopefully reaching his level for the prior wish, and SKC’s offense should be in good shape in 2020.
5. A clear heir for Roger Espinoza’s position in Sporting’s lineup: Espinoza like many of the veterans on KC’s roster are in the twilight of their career, Espinoza’s contract expires at the end of the 2020 season like captain Matt Besler. Unlike Besler and Graham Zusi (whose contract expires in 2021) there doesn’t appear to be a clear replacement for Espinoza on the roster like there is for the other two. With KC’s current roster KC has Botond Barath and new signing Roberto Puncec who in theory are the future center back pairing for Kansas City should Besler not return after the 2020 season. For Zusi the club has homegrown player, Jaylin Lindsey lined up to be the replacement at right back for Zusi. For Espinoza though there doesn’t seem to be a clear replacement on the roster. Felipe Gutierrez could be argued, but he seems more likely to either play the deep lying midfielder role offering more mobility than Ilie Sanchez, or more advanced as an attacking midfielder. He also doesn’t offer the bite that Espinoza brings. Felipe Hernandez spent some time there in the season finale in 2019 against FC Dallas but like Gutierrez, doesn’t seem to have the bite. People last year talked about Jimmy Medranda being the eventual replacement for Espinoza, but I was never sold on him developing in that position to the point he’d be an everyday starter. In the end, a future without the future Sporting Legend is on the horizon, coming sooner than later. This isn’t to say that Espinoza should be pushed out the door, because I believe he still has something to contribute to the team, but in 2020 KC really must be preparing for life without their midfield engine.
6. Continue the youth development at SKC II, but also combine that with more on the field success: Sporting KC went all in on the development aspect of their USL side last year with an average starting lineup that would have been unable to buy beer. That team though also struggled on the field, finishing last in the Eastern Conference. That doesn’t mean I want KC to go away from that strategy (or that they will), but there is a bit more middle ground to the process than where KC ended up last year with their USL team. I’d like to see SKC II much closer to the playoff picture in 2020.
7. Comets win a playoff series: Making the playoffs alone may be a tough ask for the Comets this year, they currently sit at 3-4 on the season in seventh place in the nine team Eastern Conference in the MASL. Two teams in the East, Milwaukee and Florida have just one loss, another two, Utica and Harrisburg have just two losses, and I haven’t even mentioned perennial power, Baltimore who currently sits at 4-4. But that’s my wish this year, not only do I want to see the Comets fight their way back into the playoff race this year, I want them to get there and win a series and qualify for the conference finals.
8. Olympic qualification for the US men: The US men’s U23 team has failed to qualify for the last two Olympic tournaments, the last one they qualified for was the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Early in 2020 the US team will have a chance to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and rightly or wrongly it will be an early test of where US Soccer’s system of setting a top downplaying style for all their national teams is. Qualification will be seen as a start in the right direction, while failure to qualify will be seen as another sign that US Soccer isn’t heading in the right direction.
9. A Gold Medal for Vlatko Andonovski and the US women’s team at the Olympics: Coming off their success in France at the 2019 World Cup, the US women are looking to return to the gold medal game in 2020. In Brazil in 2016 the US not only didn’t medal for the first time at the Olympics but failed to make the gold medal game for the first time winning four golds and one silver in the prior five Olympics before 2016. This will be the first major tournament for the former Comets and FC Kansas City coach, Andonovski.