The Full 90

The Full 90’s 2016 Sporting KC preview: forwards

Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi (left) and Dom Dwyer.
Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi (left) and Dom Dwyer. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

With the 2016 MLS regular season less than a week away, and the rest of the league already previewed on the blog, attention to turns to Sporting Kansas City and its pursuit of more hardware in the year to come.

Our position breakdown continues with the forwards:

Dom Dwyer

2015 FINISH: 28 starts, 2,546 minutes played, 12 goals, 2 assists

2016 ROLE: Starting striker

SKINNY: Dom Dwyer didn’t let his mind wander too much last season. When it did, Dwyer reminded himself that sharing goals with Krisztian Nemeth benefited Sporting KC just as much as if he scored 22 all by himself. He also reminded himself that Benny Feilhaber’s consistency at the penalty spot made his team better. Nevertheless, Dwyer hopes to re-emerge as the star that took MLS by storm two seasons ago. With Nemeth gone and improved play out wide, his production should increase.

Graham Zusi

2015 FINISH: 22 starts, 1,986 minutes played, 2 goals, 5 assists

2016 ROLE: Starting forward

SKINNY: Is he forward? Or should he be dropping back into the midfield? As fans and media members continue to address those questions, Graham Zusi has gotten healthy after dealing with a nagging foot injury for most of 2015. Despite another All-Star Game appearance, last season was mostly disappointing for the talented Designated Player. Zusi wants to prove he’s worth the money, and with his health back to 100 percent, don’t be surprised if he surpasses two goals within the first two months.

Brad Davis

2015 FINISH (with Houston Dynamo*): 29 starts, 2,596 minutes played, 4 goals, 10 assists

2016 ROLE: Starter/spot starter

SKINNY: The St. Charles, Mo., native made the move closer to home this offseason after a 10-year career with the Houston Dynamo where he won two MLS Cups and garnered six All-Star selections. His 131 assists are third all-time behind Landon Donovan (136) and Steve Ralston (135)— he’ll likely set the record as a member of Sporting KC. At 34, Davis provides a renewed veteran presence in a locker room that has grown familiar with its core, in addition to a new threat on when servicing set pieces.

Justin Mapp

2015 FINISH (with Montreal Impact*): 3 starts, 264 minutes played, 0 goals, 0 assists

2016 ROLE: Starter/spot starter

SKINNY: Injuries shut down another promising season for Mapp a year ago with the Montreal Impact. He suffered a dislocated elbow during the second half of Montreal’s opener, a knock that required surgery. He returned briefly in August but wasn’t the same dynamic player. Mapp has never been a numbers guy, contributing 10 or more goals just three times in his 15-year career, but rarely has he had an opportunity to work in a 4-3-3 system servicing next to his striker.

Jacob Peterson

2015 FINISH: 15 starts, 1,335 minutes played, 1 goal, 2 assists

2016 ROLE: Backup

SKINNY: Every team in every sport needs a Jacob Peterson on their roster, a guy where a mentality and willingness to push others trumps personal skill. Peterson is that player for Sporting KC. One big reason he’s so polarizing among fans isn’t whether or not he’s of value (though some certainly would argue that) but in how he’s used. Last season, Peterson was the first-choice option off the bench. That was asking too much from a guy who serves a purpose other than scoring goals … or setting up goals … or defending. With a deeper group of forwards, Peterson will settle into his support role where he’s made his living and value in years past. Don’t believe me? Just ask Sporting KC players and staff how important Peterson is to the organization’s success.

Connor Hallisey

2015 FINISH: 6 starts, 516 minutes played, 0 goals, 1 assist

2016 ROLE: Backup/Loaned to Swope Park Rangers

SKINNY: Even the most successful rookie campaigns hit a wall at some point. Connor Hallisey hit his right before the summer. The former Cal product played well early, setting up Zusi with a beautiful back-heel assist in a 4-0 win over FC Dallas on May 29. After that, Hallisey had a tough time finding playing time. However, with the club’s USL affiliation, players like Hallisey have a new avenue closer to home to nurture specific aspects of their game before returning to MLS.

Daniel Salloi

2015 FINISH: Member of U-18 Sporting KC

2016 ROLE: Backup/Loaned to Swope Park Rangers

SKINNY: Speaking of Daniel Salloi last season during the U-18’s spectacular second-half run, it became evident that Sporting KC coaches were high on the young Hungarian striker. Despite his thin frame, Salloi was silky smooth on the ball, and with time learned how to size up with big defenders. I fully expected Salloi to spend all season with Swope Park Rangers, but that was before Nemeth’s departure. With three competitions, Salloi could spend time at both levels.

*Note: Both Davis and Mapp were considered midfielders last season in Houston and Montreal but will mostly be positioned up top in the 4-3-3 system.

Be sure to check out the other Sporting KC season previews: