After overwhelming reader request, I'm filling in for Charles Gooch in this week's Sporting Kansas City mailbag. By no coincidence, I'm sure, the questions came in droves on Twitter this week.
I've selected a handful of them to answer in the mailbag.
Here's to trying not to foul up the good thing Gooch has created...
Shockingly, you guys all want the crystal-ball answer for if – or when — a Roger Espinoza and Sporting Kansas City reunion will take place. You know, that thing Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman hinted at here:
And again here:
Look, the odds are becoming increasingly likely Espinoza will don Sporting KC blue once again. That's been well-documented since August. But manager Peter Vermes has simultaneously made it clear he doesn't plan to pay for Espinoza's transfer, and Espinoza is under contract with Wigan until next summer.
Having said that, it's clear Espinoza would be a huge, huge boost to this club. If there's a way to add him to the roster sooner rather than later, bet on Vermes making it happen.
Hot Topic No. 2. As I addressed in Wednesday's in-depth story about the Sporting KC offseason, the club is likely still a few years away from bringing in that high-dollar player like Kaka or David Villa, two players who will enter the league with expansion teams next season. It simply doesn't fit Vermes' preference for a deep roster.
Another thing to keep in mind on the designated-player topic: While Sporting KC currently has three on its roster (Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Claudio Bieler), which is the maximum allowed under the current CBA rules, it's built up the allocation funds to buy down any of those three contracts and strip those guys of designated-player status. Sporting KC doesn't need any help from a new CBA to add a DP-caliber player.
Even after the addition of 31-year-old Luis Marin, which became official Thursday, Sporting KC will add another goalkeeper to its roster. I would expect that announcement to come in the next few days.
But make no mistake: Marin is coming to Kansas City to take over the No. 1 job. Vermes scouted Marin and was extremely impressed with his skill-set, most notably his distribution skills. He believes Marin is phenomenal with his feet.
In that case, I would expect the next keeper signing to serve as the backup while Kempin is sent to Oklahoma City for another round of Jimmy Nielsen School.
Sporting KC qualified for fewer competitions in 2015, leaving little playing time for a backup keeper in KC. It makes more sense to give Kempin a chance to play every day — even if he's truly the second best keeper on the roster.
Predicting Igor Juliao's role within the club next season may prove ultimately futile. Sporting KC hasn't yet worked out an agreement with Fluminense FC to have Juliao back on loan again next season, and thus Vermes is moving forward this offseason with an eye toward other options.
But for the sake of this question, let's assume Juliao makes a return. He won't be a starting winger. Bernardo Anor will be given every chance to win a winger spot opposite Graham Zusi next season. That spot proved to be a merry-go round of sorts, with no one (Soony Saad, Toni Dovale, C.J. Sapong) taking full advantage of their opportunities. Anor will be given the first crack at it in 2015.
As far as professional sports owners go, Robb is about as candid as they come. It's why (most of) you love him and why he keeps me on my toes.
Dead? What does the second 'F' in BFF stand for?
I think the "pretty big problem" phrase is a bit exaggerated. The back line is captained by a U.S. men's national team player (Matt Besler), and that's always a good start. Seth Sinovic is reliable, though it would be nice to give him a night off every now and then.
On the other right side, Ike Opara is the favorite to replace Aurelien Collin. Is that a like-for-like replacement? Not exactly, especially with Opara coming off surgery. But Collin had the worst season of his four-year MLS career in 2014, and it really wasn't close.
On the outside, if Myers is healthy, and the team expects he will be, the job is his. Newly-acquired Jalil Anibaba can play just about anywhere on the back line and can spell Myers and Opara on occasion.
That will do it for this week's mailbag. Don’t worry, Gooch will be back soon.