The Full 90

Full 90 Mailbag: Will MLS season start on time? Has Sporting KC found a new striker?

Sporting KC’s Dom Dwyer (14) and Red Bull's Jamison Olave (4) fight for possession during the playoffs in 2014.
Sporting KC’s Dom Dwyer (14) and Red Bull's Jamison Olave (4) fight for possession during the playoffs in 2014. The Kansas City Star

After a few months of hibernation, the Full 90 mailbag is back and loaded for bear with questions. The number 1 thing people’s mind? The looming Collective Bargaining Agreement — and potential for a strike. In happier moments, the mailbag will also deal with a little hype surrounding Kansas City’s new hat-trick hero Krisztian Nemeth.

Let’s just get right down to it. It’s a big one.

On Jan. 31 the current collective bargaining agreement (the contract that the league owners and the players union operate under) expired. The two sides have to come to a new agreement by March 6 or else the season will be delayed.

The players union seems willing to die on the hill of free agency, fighting for the right to move around freely around the league (instead of via complicated draft procedures) and to negotiate deals (with current teams and potential suitors). The league really doesn’t want that (like at all) as free agency could potentially lead to an increase in salaries across the board.

The league has set itself up for success for the near future with TV deals and new ownership groups; the players are looking for the same.

As of Wednesday, there are just 24 days to overcome that rather thorny point. (Brian Strauss at Sports Illustrated has written a lot about the issues.)

So, now your question. I don’t think the two sides can come together completely on this issue. The players have dug in and, seemingly, are unified. The league is similarly dug in and unified against the big thing the players want most. (They can probably come to terms on salary caps, raises, roster sizes, etc.)

Both sides have valid points and are operating from positions of greater strength collectively than five years ago. Which means I think a work stoppage is very much in play.* The players have tipped their hand several times throughout this process.

*In my opinion, while a strike would hurt all sides — including fans — in the short term, free agency is a right I believe all athletes should have. Choice and bargaining power is something that most workers have a right too — that and breakfast — even if it might mean blowing up the existing structure of the league to get to it.

However, I remain an optimist. Maybe a hard line on free agency is a tactic to boost the minimum salaries or better travel accommodations. After all, in 2010, most thought a strike was imminent until the two sides found common ground and the season started on time. (The players caved on free agency demands then.)

Maybe the league will figure out how to make a form of free agency for established veterans an option within the single-entity structure. (Maaaaaybe.)

Again, as an optimist, I’ll take the under. But that might just be wishful thinking on my part. I want to believe both sides can come together on March 5 and everyone is happy. (Or, relatively happy enough.)

As I understand it, all players are part of the players union. Should there be a strike, the length of that potential strike would determine how the season resumes. A protracted ordeal could lead to the league radically reducing the number of games — like the NBA did a few years ago.

I think any potential delay could be minimal, with the games made up during the summer. If one too many teams don’t get that game-day revenue and a few too many players miss that game-day check on opening weekend, that should expedite conversations.

I think you’re probably at the “Researching how to cancel your flight reservation or turn it into points for a future trip” level.

Obviously, lots of people were excited about Nemeth’s performance in Monday’s friendly. He had a hat-trick and an assist in the second half (as a substitute for Dom Dwyer) to lead KC to a come-from-behind victory.

Now, I love hype as much as the next guy but let’s start with the biggest caveat: FC Tucson are a PDL team. Even with the soccer pyramid potentially shifting underneath MLS, the PDL is still the fourth-tier of American soccer.

His pedigree is pretty good — signed with Liverpool as an 18-year-old — and his upside is still fairly high as a 26-year-old, but his scoring record leaves a lot to be desired. In the Dutch league — one that is, generally, maybe just a little better than MLS — he scored just 10 goals in 45 appearances for Roda JC.

I don’t want to completely rain the parade. I know that, given KC’s lack of a secondary goal-scoring threat last season, it’s easy to get carried away with a little bit of excitement for the new guy.

Let’s just keep the expectations low for now.

Maybe a little bit lower than than. Diop is sacred around these parts.

What did I just say about expectations? It’s way too early to predict anything regarding Nemeth (especially how he’ll play alongside Dwyer at this point). It’s criminally too early to even suggest that KC might have the soccer version of Golden State’s Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

But… this is still a fun question — because soccer and the NBA are two of my favorite things. Steph and Klay are exciting because they are young (26 and 25 respectively), they have cool and memorable names, they have multi-faceted skill sets that compliment each other, and either one could explode for 50 points in a single game.

As of right now, Dom and Krisztian have two of those factors covered (age and names). Now they have to figure out the hard part: Can play together (a problem that bothered the Warriors the first few seasons) and share the burden.

The MLS equivalent, I think, is the New England Revolution — especially now that Juan Agudelo is back in the mix. Lee Nguyen was already the league-leader in “HOLY CRAP TWITTER IS BROKEN” moments, which makes him the MLS-version of Steph Curry.

I think the job will be Bernardo Anor’s to lose this preseason, with the primary competition coming from Nemeth and first-round pick Connor Hallisey. Jacob Peterson, as always, would be a defensive choice in tough games — but I think he projects longer term this year as a fullback.

Miguel Ibarra is a very interesting prospect who saw his first major action last weekend for the U.S. against Panama.

The speedy winger currently plays for Minnesota United FC of the North American Soccer League (currently the second tier). A lot of teams would probably pony up to sign him away at this point. However, because he’s a national-team player now, according to sources he’d have to go through the allocation order.*

*Because, well, MLS. Kansas City didn’t need the allocation order to sign James Marcelin who played for the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale club last season.

Kansas City is currently 7th in the allocation order and would likely face competition should he suddenly become available. However, it’s not likely he will become available as he signed a three-year extension with Minnesota last year. (Also, my friend Bruce from Du Nord might get super mad at me for suggesting he leave Minnesota for KC.)

Kansas City could use some depth at the wing position still. Even with Hallisey, Nemeth and Anor, I think Kansas City lacks a speedy option should Peter Vermes still to the 4-3-3 formation.

Speed is super important in those wide positions for pressing teams. You can’t really have too much speed out there.

U.S. soccer was always thinking long term with Klinsmann, which means he might have carte blanche for another year — maybe through another World Cup cycle. But, I wonder what would happen if the U.S. falls flat in the Gold Cup this summer? Or he continues to snipe at his player’s fitness to the point that some of them decide the national isn’t worth the effort?

Or if MLS commissioner Don Garber has him kidnapped and dispatched to Abu Dhabi like Garfield did with Nermal?*

*That’s my last Garfield joke ever. I swear. But the thought of Klinsmann as Nermal made me laugh a little too much.

I get why Klinsmann did it (Jones is a very good passer and strong tackler with a good read on the game — skills necessary at that spot) and will never fault a coach for experimenting in a friendly or two. However, Jones has a proclivity to play about three positions at once (none on the same line) and never seems satisfied staying where he starts the game. That sort of wandering strains the back line longterm.

I hope he was just keeping that spot warm for Geoff Cameron (a better, natural fit there) and trying to see how well Michael Bradley and Mixx Diskerud could play together in the middle while keeping Jones on the field.

So, the background here. On Sunday during The Grammy’s, Sporting KC dropped two very excellent commercials called “Made in KC.” They featured Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza. More are coming.

Technically, neither guy is “from” KC like Seth Sinovic, Jon Kempin or Matt Besler. However, both essentially “made” their careers here in Kansas City. Which I think is the point.

Also, a Besler commercial is coming very soon, according to the team’s creative lead Chad Reynolds. The U.S. camp got in the way of shooting it.

However, I love that commercials prominently feature the wonderful KC band Radkey. The Zusi commercial features the song “Romance Dawn” and the Espinoza spot features “Cat & Mouse.” Both are mainstays on my Spotify playlist. (Also, Radkey is playing Coachella this year.)

This is a great excuse to share the full version of “Cat & Mouse.”

Should Sporting KC want to ever expand the roster of local bands to include in promotional spots, I have three suggestions: Bummer, Various Blonde and Drop a Grand.

I’m a fan of reserving judgment on something until I see it in person. Some things just don’t translate to a flat image on the internet for me.

My initial impresions: I like some aspects of it — particularly the collar/button. However, I’m not sure how I feel about the grid pattern. It feels a little underwhelming. But I need to see it. I think most people will warm to the jersey over time — the first reaction is usually fairly negative.*

*For some people, they just don’t like change and immediately sour on something it seems.

As for a third kit, I wouldn’t put it past KC to try something. After all, this is the team’s 20th anniversary. However, the league and adidas are trying to move away from third kits from what I’ve heard. So, if anything happens this year, I’d imagine it would be a very limited-use deal and come as a bit of a surprise.

Thanks for another round of great questions. We’ll do it again soon.

To reach Charles Gooch, send email to cgooch@kcstar.com. On Twitter @TheFull90.

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