KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City narrowly missed out on the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2010, but that doesn’t mean the club has time or opportunity to be complacent. With a new name, new stadium and Designated Player Omar Bravo on the way next year, manager Peter Vermes and his staff have plenty of work to do to shape the side into a Cup contender.
Here are eight things upon which Sporting Kansas City should focus in the offseason to ensure 2011 has a happier ending than what ended up as a disappointing 2010.
Solidify the center of defense
After the disaster that was Pablo Escobar, Kansas City never really found a way to lock down the middle of the back line. Jimmy Conrad and Shavar Thomas developed a solid partnership, but both had their hands in some goals that raised some eyebrows and are on the older side. Vermes needs to bring some additional stability to that area of the field next season for Sporting Kansas City to seriously challenge for a playoff berth.
[inline_node:319558]Find a consistent finisher
Apart from their defensive struggles, the club’s top deficiency was the lack of a bona fide finisher and center forward. Teal Bunbury and Birahim Diop filled in well, scoring 10 goals between them, but a veteran goal poacher could help the promising Bunbury develop and turn some of Kansas City’s draws and losses into three points.
Keep the young core together
With player contracts in the process of being finalized for next season, KC's top priority should be protecting the foundation they’ve laid. Keeping players such as Michael Harrington, Roger Espinoza, Kei Kamara, Ryan Smith, Matt Besler and Bunbury together will be paramount to the club’s future success.
Continue building on high-pressing style
Kansas City certainly have needs that Vermes will look to fill this offseason, but he has to do so with a mind to how they fit into Sporting's high-pressure system. If Vermes can bring in the right parts and his current players can continue building on their first season in the system, success could be right around the corner in the form of attacking football paired with a defensive mind set that suffocates opponents.
Reinforce talent pipeline from academy
Goalkeeper Jon Kempin was the club’s first homegrown signing, but it seems likely Kansas City will add another player from the juniors this offseason as more focus is placed on talent development. Konner Knoll, a versatile defender, was the academy player of the year and could make the jump as the club looks to establish a local talent base.
Ensure Bravo is on the way and prepared for MLS
Vermes and his staff need to make it clear to the Chivas de Guadalajara icon what it will take to be successful in MLS so that the Mexican can make the impact the team need him to from the very start.
Come out ahead following busy offseason
Kansas City lost only Jonathan Leathers in the Expansion Draft, but they'll undoubtedly shake up the roster even more with players waived, signed and drafted. The key to it all is for Vermes and his staff to emerge from the offseason shuffle with more pieces in their arsenal than they came in with to improve on last season’s roster augmentation. If they can do that, this is going to be a deep team with the talent to play with any side in MLS.