Sporting Kansas City are set to embark on one the most ambitious years in franchise history: A 34-game league slate, the defense of its 2012 U.S. Open Cup and its first run in the CONCACAF Champions League. To tackle this three-pronged attack, the front office spent much of the off-season adding new pieces and tinkering with the roster.
The Kansas City Star
The Full 90 will take a look at what's changed, what's stayed the same and what some of the biggest questions are position-by-position over the next few days.
Starting with the most consistent position: Goalkeeper.
Storyline to Watch:
How Peter Vermes utilizes his three goalkeepers throughout the long season.
In 2012, Jimmy Nielsen was the man. He led all MLS goalkeepers in minutes played (3060), shutouts (15) and was second in goals-allowed average (0.79). He started for the MLS All-Stars and took home the 2012 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award. For good measure, he was also in the MLS 2012 Best XI.
But, did Kansas City rely on The White Puma too much? He appeared in 38 of Kansas City's 41 matches (including friendlies). That left just two starts for veteran backup Eric Kronberg (both friendlies against Montpellier HSC and Stoke City) and one for youngster Jon Kempin (against Orlando City in the Open Cup).
At 35 and entering the last year of his contract (though he has an option for 2014), it's safe to ask if Nielsen can carry that same burden. Again. In a year where the number of games for SKC could top out near 50. It's also safe to ask if KC is prepared for life aft Jimmy.
Kronberg is the longest-tenured player on the roster, but he's appeared in just five games in seven years. He'll be 30 in June.
Kempin, who turns 20 this year, is Kansas City's goalkeeper of the future. He made his debut with the team against Orlando City in the Open Cup in 2012.
The deal between Kansas City and Orlando City means KC will send at least four players to Orlando on loan. Will Kempin, in need of professional games, get shipped to central Florida? And, if he gets shipped to Orlando, will he see the field? Veteran and captain Miguel Gallardo is currently Orlando's No. 1.
Projected Depth Chart:
1. Jimmy Nielsen
2. Eric Kronberg
3. Jon Kempin
Coming tomorrow: Peter Vermes re-builds his back-up defense.