The Full 90

2013 Preview: Changes coming to KC's forward line

Updated: 2013-03-01T18:38:35Z

Charles Gooch

The Kansas City Star

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 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.

Up next: The guys who bring the goals.

Hello: Claudio Bieler (transfer from LDU Quito)
Goodbye: Kei Kamara (on loan to Norwich City until May 6)

Storyline to Watch:
What happens with C.J. Sapong.

Last season, Sapong was KC's first choice central forward.

This year, he figures to lose his main role with the addition of Bieler to the lineup as an out-and-out central forward. He'll be asked to push out to one of the wide positions, but those might be filled too. Graham Zusi will start along the right wing and last year's opening-day starter, Bobby Convey, looked rejuvenated during the preseason. That's four players to make three spots. And what happens if Kei Kamara comes back from Norwich in May?

The good news for C.J. Sapong is that A) he's young and B) he's incredibly valuable to this team. People counted him out on Draft Day and after the first camp when Teal Bunbury looked entrenched as the central forward. He's held his ground with Bunbury, Omar Bravo and Kamara in the lineup. So, he'll be fine.

According to Peter Vermes, he can play all three spots along the front and play them well. Which means that, if he does start on the bench, he can be a very effective game changer for Sporting KC.

Imagine bringing on a guy with Sapong's speed and power at the 65-minute mark and, for an added bonus, you can slot him anywhere along the front line? If Sapong can figure out how to make an impact as a substitute (or even earn push Convey or Bieler out of the starting lineup) it might be the difference between being a regular-season conference contender and an MLS Cup winner.

Key Figure:
Bieler

Does he need to score 30 goals? No. That's not reasonable. He might not even need to score 16-18 goals. But Kansas City will need its new striker to be consistent and a consistent threat in front of goal. If he can score 10-12 times, combined with the continued growth of Sapong (he scored 9 times last year) and more opportunities closer to goal for Zusi (who will start at right forward this season), it could be all KC needs.

Biggest Questions:
Who replaces Kamara's athleticism and aerial ability? Who replaces Kamara's shots? Who replaces Kamara's unpredictability? Can Convey stay healthy for an entire season? What happens when Teal Bunbury is back and healthy? What about Jacob Peterson? Are there enough minutes for Soony Saad and/or Dom Dwyer to develop a playing style?

(I'm fond of saying you can never have too many forwards in a 4-3-3 formation. I think KC might have reached a tipping point with, potentially, nine of them!)

Projected Depth Chart:
Right Forward
1. Graham Zusi
2. C.J. Sapong
3. Soony Saad

Center Forward
1. Claudio Bieler
2. C.J. Sapong
3. Dom Dwyer
4. Soony Saad

Left Forward
1. Bobby Convey
2. C.J. Sapong
3. Soony Saad

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