In the last three years, Sporting Kansas City have shed veteran after veteran (Kevin Hartman, Jimmy Conrad, Jack Jewsbury, Davy Arnaud). But one constant remains during the Peter Vermes-era: Jimmy "White Puma" Nielsen.
He's the reigning team MVP and, this year, will wear the captain's armband. He'll also likely figure starting the lion's share of the games again this year. His main backup will be veteran Eric Kronberg. After him, it's 18-year-old Homegrown 'keeper Jon Kempin.
The team will open the season with just two fit goalkeepers: Nielsen and Kempin. Kronberg is out 4-to-6 weeks with a lower back injury.The Setup
Kansas City's high-pressure, hard-tackling set-up often leads to a fair amount shots and free-kicks in good spots. That means a positionally-aware 'keeper is a must. Nielsen has always fit this bill.
It's also the role of a KC goalkeeper to help organize the back-line and distribute the ball up field -- usually as directly as possible.The Depth Chart
1. Jimmy Nielsen
2. Eric Kronberg
3. Jon KempinKey Questions
Can Nielsen stay healthy? While I believe Kempin has a lot of great physical tools (and Nielsen backs me up on this, calling Kempin the "future goalkeeper for the U.S. national team"), he's not mentally ready to carry a team with KC's expectations. If Kronberg's back injury (he's also coming off sports-hernia surgery this off-season) takes a long time to heal, Kempin will almost surely be thrown into a game situation before he's likely completely ready.Key Player
Nielsen. He might be one of the most important players on the field for KC, period.Biggest Cause For Concern
Nielsen's weird choice to wear a snood when it's cold outside. Not only does it look weird, but FIFA frowns on their usage
.Crazy train of thought
Kempin gets a shot in an early U.S. Open Cup game, impresses and makes his case for full-time No. 2 by July.Prediction time
Jimmy Nielsen turns out comparable numbers to '11 (1.14 goals allowed per game, 7 shutouts) and is voted to MLS All-Star game as a reserve 'keeper.Reality Check
Kempin doesn't make his case for full-time No. 2 and Nielsen plays 90 percent of the games with Kronberg picking up the rest.