With the MLS SuperDraft less than a day away, I thought now would be a great time to explore Sporting Kansas City’s needs. The draft begins tomorrow at 11 a.m. The first round will be broadcast on ESPN2. I’ll join the masses of MLS writers and live-tweet the proceedings. Follow me atThe Full 90
But, before you do that, you’ve got to analyze what they have. Since the last time I did a roster breakdown, a few notable moves have taken place: Jimmy Conrad and Josh Wolff are members of other teams; reserve players Sunil Chhetri, Zoltan Hercegfalvi and Nikos Kounenakis are all as good as gone too.
The team has signed two players since the end of 2010: New designated player Omar Bravo (who has now joined the team after his loan spell with his former club Chivas de Guadalajara ended) and Luke Sassano, who was acquired for Frankie Hejduk after the second-stage of the MLS re-entry draft. Sporting Kansas City tweeted this evening that Sassano’s contract was signed.
Sporting Kansas City’s roster as Jan. 12, 2011Special status in parenthesis.
Jimmy Nielsen (foreign)*, Eric Kronberg, Jonathan Kempin (Home Grown)
Roger Espinoza*, Shavar Thomas*, Matt Besler, Chance Myers, Korede Aiyegbusi (foreign)
Davy Arnaud *(captain), Stephane Auvray*, Craig Rocastle* (foreign), Jack Jewsbury, Graham Zusi, Sassano
Ryan Smith* (foreign/might become U.S. citizen soon), Bravo (foreign), Teal Bunbury* (Generation adidas), Kei Kamara*, Birahim Diop* Returning regular starter
Sassano and fullback Michael Harrington aren’t technically with the team until their contracts have been filed to the league. The team is waiting on Harrington to finalize his deal.By the numbers
• Total players under contract: 19
• Players under contraction negotiations: 1
• Foreign players: 5
• Players over 25: 10
• Total picks in the MLS SuperDraft: 3**The fourth-round of the SuperDraft is now the first round of a supplemental draft, which was re-instituted this year. It will be a three-round draft on Jan. 18.
If Harrington joins the team officially, that would put the roster at 20 players. MLS has increased each team’s roster limits to 30 (with players #24-30 under 24-years-old and exempt from the team’s salary cap*).*This includes home-grown players and players with Generation adidas contracts. For KC, that means Kempin and Bunbury fall into this category.
Where are the holes?
Anyone with a functioning eye or two will tell you that the most glaring hole in that 20-man roster is in defense. This was the casebefore
losing Conrad, Jonathan Leathers and Aaron Hohlbein this offseason. Only two players under contract (Besler, Thomas) have played an MLS game as a central defender and both Myers and Aiyegbusi spent more time in midfield than in the back.
The other glaring hole is youth in midfield: Arnaud, Auvray, Rocastle and Jewsbury are all 29 or older; Zusi is the lone youngster at 24.
A few smaller holes: There are only two true left-sided players (Espinoza, Smith); the team has no natural right winger (Kamara is a converted central forward playing wide); and the team could use another multi-purpose player (think Jewsbury, but younger).
What the Mock Drafts say
Here’s a quick run-down of who the preeminent American soccer writers have SKC drafting with the 10th pick in tomorrow’s draft. You’re gonna be shocked... not one of them has KC taking the same player. (Hell, Ives has KC taking TWO different guy sin TWO different mocks!)
• The MLS trio of Simon Borg, Jason Saghini and Travis Clark have SKC taking Eddie Ababio (D-North Carolina), Daniel Keat (M-Dartmouth) and Michael Tetteh (D/M-University of California-Santa Barbara/Generation adidas) respectively.
• Soccer by Ives has SKC taking the spell-check busting Anthony Ampaipitakwong (M-Akron). But Ives’ Fox Soccer mock has Sporting KC nabbing Generation adidas forward Omar Salgado. (Not sure why the team would take a forward unless they knew Bunbury was going to leave soon. But... Salgado is a project and Bravo could be good for him.)
• Sports Illustrated’s Steve Davis have KC going with diminutive play-making midfielder Joao Plata (Ecuador).
• WV Hooligan’s last draft (on Jan. 7) had KC going with Jalil Anibaba (D-North Carolina).
If you’re keeping track at home, that’s three defenders, one holding midfielder, one play-making midfielder, one multi-purpose midfielder and one forward.
So, Who Does the Full 90 Think Sporting KC Will Draft First?
Before I scream “CENTRAL DEFENDER,” let’s take a second to think about the players KC is bringing in on trial this month. The duo from Trinidad Tobago, Daneil Cyrus and Sheldon Bateau, are both defenders. So is Gambian Omar Colley.
If Vermes was planning on bringing in a defender through the draft, do you think he would’ve invited 3 defenders to camp? It’s possible. But I don’t think it’s completely likely.
Head coach Peter Vermes has hinted that the team might sign another academy product. This could be defender Konnor Knoll. It also could be forward Jordan Rideout.
So, can I finally answer the question:Who will KC draft tomorrow?
I’ll answer my own question with another question:How do I know?
Vermes plays things pretty close to his chest. The team has several needs, the primary need (central defense) also happens to be a need shared by several teams ahead of them (Chicago, Chivas, New England, Philly).
Having said that, if Cal’s A.J. Soares or North Carolina’s Anibaba are available at the 10th pick (both had great camps and may slide up into the Top 8), I think KC has to take them. I also think Tetteh (he’s versatile and can fit in many slots in the 4-3-3 formation; he’s also a GA) would be a nice fit positionally and financially.
But part of me thinks that Sport Illustrated’s Davis might have the inside track with Plata, an 18-year-old prospect that shined at the Combine. He fits the profile of a Sporting Kansas City player (i.e., he’s not born in America) and fulfills a definite need as laid out earlier. His size might be a deterrent though, he’d make Lance Watson look like a giant at 5’3”.
If I had to put money down, I’d probably go with Plata. If it was my money going into paying the player, I’d hope Soares or Anibaba fell into my lap.
Long blog post short: I only have assumptions and guesses at this point. Pretty much like everyone else.