Let me preface this post by saying this: I don't think this season is over yet. Sure the team is facing down a team record for fewest goals scored and are currently 6 points out of the last playoff spot.
But it's hard to ignore the gigantic elephant in the room: Next year is going to be a very, very exciting year for the Kansas city Wizards.
In addition to the new stadium (which we'll write more about in the future I promise) the team will most likely have a new-look on offense when they bring Mexican striker Omar Bravo into the fold.
How will the 30-year-old striker fit into the Kansas City Wizards fold?
Well, before he even steps on the field, Bravo immediately changes the team's striking options. This is simply because his experience leading the attack trumps anything the Wizards have on the roster right now.
Let me use some numbers to illustrate my assertion:
122 (106 for Chivas Guadalajara, 1 for Spain's Deportivo La Coruna and 15 for Mexico)
•Total career goals scored by Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara, Davy Arnaud, Ryan Smith and Josh Wolff:
He's almost single-handedly a more cultured goal scorer on his own than the five leading attackers currently on the Wizards roster.
It’s worth noting that all but 13 of the goals tallied by Bunbury/Kamara/Arnaud/Smith/Wolff were scored in the MLS -- Arnaud scored 1 goal for the U.S., Wolff scored 9 for the U.S. and 2 for 1860 Munich, and Smith scored one for Leicester City. That's a key point to make because, well, the Mexican league is generally considered a far better league than MLS.
So what will change heading into next year?
Wolff (and his $200k salary) will probably be gone in the offseason. This will leave a tentative attacking force of Bravo, Bunbury, Kamara, Arnaud, Zoltan and Sunil Chhetri. (Zoltan will be fully recovered, hopefully, from an ACL tear and Chhetri will be returning from his “loan” with the Indian national team. I’m taking a bit of a leap to assume that Bunbury/Kamara/Smith will still be Wizards. But it would seem kind of obvious those three would remain.)
Where will Bravo fit on the team?
Head coach Peter Vermes said last week that Bravo could play as many as four of positions in the team's current 4-3-3: Any of the three spots up top or the underneath midfielder. He also said he could be the linking striker in a more traditional 4-4-2.* That's good. Flexibility among the top-tier talent is a requisite in the modern game.*I hope they don't switch formations. I enjoy the 4-3-3 and think, with another year, it could really be effective in this league.
In my opinion, Bravo will probably slip into the right winger role in the team’s current formation. (It's currently the weakest part of the attack. Kamara is a talented player, but he's not a right winger.)
If Bravo starts there, that would push Kamara and Bunbury to fight with Zoltan in the preseason for the central spot. The two who “lose” that battle will then fight for the substitute scraps.
Arnaud would still be the advanced midfielder and Smith keeps his left wing role.
But here’s the bottom line, something Robb Heineman told me a few weeks ago: The addition of Bravo to the top-tier talent (the
top talent) in that group pushes the team's current top-tier to the mid-level. For instance: Turning Kamara (the leading goal scorer this year) into a bench player improves the talent-base of the whole team. It also fosters competition and competition for jobs (as any economist will tell you) is the cause of heightened production.
One last thought: The best part of this group of attackers would be its flexibility. You could have four attacking players capable of holding down any of the attacking spots. Think Total Football-lite. Or the current Barcelona system. (It should be no coincidence that in a chat yesterday, Vermes praised Barca's system. He's really trying to emulate it.)
But what do you think? Where do you think Bravo will fit into this team? What spot do you think he'll play best?