Preseason results may not matter all that much at the end of the day, but an age-old saying continues to be applicable for any sports team following a successful preparation period before the start of a new campaign.
Winning is a habit.
By and large, that’s precisely what Sporting Kansas City has done over the last month under the warm Arizona sun. Manager Peter Vermes’ side have ended their preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy, with a 5-0-1 record while outscoring opponents 28-4.
As the full table of preseason stats would indicate, Sporting will have more than a few reasons to feel confident heading into next Thursday’s Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 clash with Toluca at Children’s Mercy Park.
Look no further than the top two players on the chart—Krisztian Nemeth and Johnny Russell. The Hungarian Nemeth is a likely candidate to assume the No. 9 role at the start of the season and looked consistently dangerous in Arizona, especially during a two-goal performance on Wednesday as Sporting cruised past Houston 4-1. Russell, meanwhile, scored in four of his five preseason appearances and appears capable of replicating his brilliant MLS debut last year.
Nemeth and Russell will shoulder scoring responsibilities for Sporting throughout 2019, but they won’t be the only ones getting on the scoresheet. The likes of Kelyn Rowe, Yohan Croizet and Graham Zusi have all bagged multiple goals over the last month, while Daniel Salloi, Erik Hurtado and Felipe Gutierrez have also found the back of the net. Zusi—arguably the most versatile full back in MLS—and Gerso Fernandes looked particularly dangerous in playmaking roles, leading the team with three preseason assists.
All in all, 17 different players scored or assisted a goal for Sporting this preseason. Vermes ended up using 38 players, including 25 under MLS contract plus four members of the Swope Park Rangers, five Sporting KC Academy standouts, three unsigned SuperDraft picks and one trialist.
Perhaps the biggest quirk of the 2019 preseason stat log is this: 20-year-old midfielder Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal was the only player to appear in all six matches and play more than 300 minutes. That’s because he managed to play in both games against Houston on Wednesday despite the fact that they kicked off close to the same time at around 5 p.m. CT. Kuzain played 89 minutes in the 1-1 draw on one field, then darted across the Kino Sports Complex and played the final 13 minutes of the 4-1 win on another field.
With their preseason ledger complete, Sporting will continue to train in Scottsdale, Arizona, through Tuesday. The club will travel back to Kansas City on Tuesday night, train at Children’s Mercy Park on Wednesday, then host Toluca in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16. The highly anticipated battle will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and tickets remain available at SeatGeek.com.
Sporting KC 2019 Preseason Results
|Friday, Jan. 18||Sporting Arizona FC||W 4-0||Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex (Scottsdale)|
|Wednesday, Jan. 23||Phoenix Rising FC Trialists||W 7-0||Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex (Scottsdale)|
|Wednesday, Jan. 30||FC Tucson Trialists||W 9-0||Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex (Scottsdale)|
|Thursday, Feb. 7||Phoenix Rising FC
(two 75-minute matches)
|W 3-2||Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex (Scottsdale)|
|Wednesday, Feb. 13||Houston Dynamo||W 4-1||Kino Sports Complex (Tucson)|
|Wednesday, Feb. 13||Houston Dynamo||T 1-1||Kino Sports Complex (Tucson)|
Sporting KC 2019 Preseason Stats
|Wilson Harris *||3||0||150||2||0|
|Felipe Hernandez *||4||0||128||1||0|
|Justin Bilyeu *||4||0||123||1||0|
|Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal||6||1||312||0||0|
|Will Little ^||3||0||120||0||0|
|Kamar Marriott **||3||0||120||0||0|
|Camden Riley **||3||0||120||0||0|
|Daniel Johnson ^^||3||0||120||0||0|
|Franky Martinez **||2||0||60||0||0|
|Jake Davis ^||2||0||60||0||0|
|Mo Abualnadi ^||2||0||60||0||0|
|Tucker Lepley ^||1||0||60||0||0|
|Sean Karani ^||1||0||60||0||0|
|Ethan Vanacore-Decker *||1||0||1||0||0|
|Brooks Thompson ^||1||0||15||0||0.00|
* Swope Park Rangers
^ Sporting KC Academy
** Unsigned MLS SuperDraft pick