The Full 90

The Morning Kickoff: A closer (and our last) look at Sporting KC's 2011 schedule

I don't want to beleaguer a dearly-departed equine, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into Sporting Kansas City's 2011 schedule. If for no other reason than I did a little research and thought it should see the light of day.

It's been almost 24 hours since MLS unleashed

this monster

on the masses. It has taken a bit to digest. Yes, Sporting KC only appears on national TV once (as of now, Fox Soccer Channel will have their schedule out soon, with changes expected). Yes, there are 34 games spread over 8 months. Yes, KC will play 17 of their last 24 games at home. Yes, you will endure some wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth at Big Soccer about, well, anything that relates to anything really.

The schedule certainly seems to be pushing Kansas City toward following their somewhat annual pattern of struggling out of the gates and having to storm back in the summer, with a front-loaded away schedule that empties into a back-loaded home schedule.

“It’s going to be a formidable task,” head coach

Peter Vermes said

. “But I think our team will be up to the challenge.”

And just what are some of those challenges?

Instead of breaking it down into four quarters, I thought it might be more instructive to explore the schedule by diving into three very distinct chunks that might break or break Sporting KC's season. These three chunks represent the biggest hurdles of this season.

Chunk 1: “The Road” Trip

• @ Chivas USA, March 19 (9:30 p.m.)

• @ Toronto FC, June 4 (6 p.m.)

For the first 3 months of the season, Kansas City will get a nice tour of the United States of America (and Canada!). Over 82 days the team will log 9,061 miles through the air (or 8,448 if they decided to skip traveling back to Kansas City from Columbus). It's not as bleak as “The Road,” but it could be apocalyptic to the team's chances.

If the team makes it out of these 10 games (and if the team survives back-to-back-to-back-to-back against the league's two shiniest collection of stars, the inventors of American soccer and the defending champs) with 10-12 points, that will be considered a success.

Of course, that would mean winning almost as many games (3) as they did last all of last season (4). Too boot... KC's road record the last five seasons? 17-19-40.

Chunk 2: The “Wait, We're Missing How Many Guys” Cup?

• vs. Chicago Fire, June 9 (9 p.m.)

• vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, June 25 (7:30 p.m.)

The Gold Cup is supposed to be a good thing for Kansas City. After all, the new stadium will host a Gold Cup double-header on June 14 (teams TBA).

But Major League Soccer will play right through a competition (June 2-25) that will rob its rosters of more players than the 2010 World Cup.

In Kansas City, there are as many as FIVE players who could be called into national team duty: Stephane Auvray (Guadeloupe's captain), Shavar Thomas (Jamaica's captain), Craig Rocastle (helped Grenada qualify for the Cup), Roger Espinoza (a member of Honduras' World Cup team) and Teal Bunbury (will/should/could battle for U.S. roster spot). If, for some reason, Mexico ask Omar Bravo (unlikely, but you never know) to suit up for his country again... well, let's not think about replacing SIX regulars.

They might have to do with a squad of reserve players, but positive results are possible in most of those games.

Chunk 3: The Kinda Bad Month

• vs. Real Salt Lake, Aug. 3 (7:30 p.m.)

• vs. FC Dallas, Aug. 27 (7:30 p.m.)

August has, over the last five years, been a struggle (to put it mildly) for Kansas City. Of the 24 games played in the month without a holiday during the last five years, KC won 6 and drew 5 with a cumulative goal differential of -13. That's over five years.

While those games are all at home and part of a nine-game home stand, playing six games in 24 days (against Los Angeles, Salt Lake, Dallas and Seattle) is a test of a teams' fitness and resolve. And... there's that little bit of modern history that requires reversing too.

I hope this hasn't bummed you out, so I'll leave you on a positive note.

There have been two things that haves stood out so far this preseason: Fitness and a depth. Which are, coincidentally, the two things a team needs to overcome the challenges listed above. The team will have fitness coach Mateus Manoel for the whole season and there are still more than 30 players battling for spots in Arizona.

So, the team know what's ahead of them. And, if you remember your G.I. Joe, knowing is half the battle.

There's you paragraph of hope after 1,000 words of speculated doom.*

*Can the season get here already? I'm really tired of talking about theoretical things at great length. I feel like a TV weatherman.