Offseason Recap - Day 10

As Sporting Kansas City’s 2022 MLS regular-season home opener looms, SportingKC.com is rolling out a 15-day countdown until MLS is back at Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting begins its 2022 campaign with a visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Feb. 27 for a matchup with Atlanta United FC at 2 p.m. CT. Sporting will then host longtime rival Houston Dynamo FC at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 5 at Children's Mercy Park.

The 2022 Preseason Countdown will provide fans with key storylines to keep an eye on as we approach Sporting’s home opener. From player highlights and coaching spotlights to new features at Children’s Mercy Park, the 2022 Preseason Countdown will highlight the many reasons to be excited for what’s ahead.

It is now time to dive into Sporting KC’s busy offseason. This offseason Sporting re-signed two players, brought in seven fresh faces and played five preseason matches. This will serve as a brief recap of the offseason as a whole.

MLS NEXT Pro Announced

The first big event to take place this offseason was the announcement of MLS NEXT Pro, and the completion of the pro player pathway. Sporting KC II will be one of 21 founding members of MLS NEXT Pro and begin regular season play in late March at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, Kansas.

In January, SKC II announced 2013 MLS Cup Champions Benny Feilhaber and Ike Opara as the team’s head and assistant coaches respectively. Feilhaber and Opara bring a combined 442 MLS caps to the table as they look to cultivate the next generation of Sporting talent.

Incoming Players

Sporting said goodbye to 10 players this offseason and brought in seven. The offseason started with the signing of two MLS veterans, defender Ben Sweat, and midfielder Uri Rosell who was a part of Sporting’s 2013 MLS Cup Championship team. The next round of signings was a trio of defenders as Sporting brought in Logan Ndenbe, Kortne Ford and Robert Voloder. The roster was completed with a duo of European forwards in Marinos Tzionis and Nikola Vujnovic.

With the dust settled, Sporting has addressed key lineup issues from 2021 by bringing in lots of support in the defensive third. Factor in the re-signing of two fan-favorites, Roger Espinoza, and Graham Zusi, and you have one busy, successful offseason.  

Preseason Matches in Arizona

Preseason matches for Sporting began on Jan. 27, with a closed-door friendly against the U.S. Men’s National Team ahead of their January CONCACAF Octagonal matches. Eight days later they played an open-door preseason match against Colorado Rapids. Neither side got on the scoreboard, as the Desert Showcase matchup ended in a 0-0 draw.

Preseason rolled on with Sporting facing Portland timbers on Feb. 3. Nicolas Isimat-Mirin scored Sporting’s first goal of the preseason after finishing off a fantastic combination play with fellow defender Graham Zusi. Captain Johnny Russell picked up right where he left off after last season, cutting inside from the right flank, and placing a shot into the far post with his left foot.

After a complete Sporting KC line change to start the second half, Portland came on in a fury. The Timbers scored once in the 51’ and would eventually equalize in the 90’ leading to another Sporting preseason draw.

Sporting’s final preseason match in the Grand Canyon State came against its kind hosts for the month, Phoenix Rising FC on Feb. 12. Sporting’s 2021 club MVP Daniel Salloi scored his first goal in the year 2022 after settling Ndenbe’s long-through ball over the top, dashing for the box and burying the shot past the Phoenix keeper.

Phoenix nodded the match up at one a little over 15 minutes later and forced Tim Melia into a pair of nice saves in the 40th. Sporting had a handful of chances in the second half but ultimately it was Phoenix Rising who grabbed the winner on an 81’ penalty kick.

Conclusion of Preseason

The preseason wrapped up with Sporting traveling to Austin, TX. for one more preseason match which took place on Feb. 19 against Toronto FC. Salloi scored again this time whipping a shot from 20-yards out into the back of the net. Toronto leveled the match in the 89’ bringing a close to Sporting’s preseason.

Now the attention turns to the regular season. Sporting kicks off the regular season four days from now and returns to Children’s Mercy Park 10 days from now. After a five-week preseason and an even longer offseason, sporting director and head coach Peter Vermes has the squad ready to go for the club’s 27th season.