For the first time in the 25-year history of Major League Soccer, the month of February will mark the start of regular season play. On Feb. 29, clubs across the United States and Canada will step between the white lines with hopes of collecting three points to begin 2020.
A delectable opening day of MLS action will see Sporting Kansas City visit Vancouver Whitecaps FC at 9:30 p.m. CT, giving supporters their first real look at Manager Peter Vermes’ side since last October.
As the anticipated date approaches, SportingKC.com is rolling out a 28-day countdown to first kick, offering a comprehensive preview of the season ahead. From key storylines and positional breakdowns to new fan initiatives and perks at Children’s Mercy Park, our Countdown to Kickoff series highlights the many reasons to be pumped for Sporting’s 2020 campaign. To visit the series homepage as it expands, head to SportingKC.com/countdown.
Sporting Kansas City are just two years removed from a historic offensive season that yielded 65 regular season goals and 79 goals in all competitions, both all-time club records.
Manager Peter Vermes’ men added another 61 last year—no small number by any stretch—but that didn’t stop the club from spending cash on prolific Mexican striker Alan Pulido. As Khiry Shelton also steps back in the mix, Sporting figures to have a wealth of attacking options heading into 2020.
With fingers crossed for plenty of goals, here’s a positional preview of the Sporting Kansas City forwards.
2019 Recap: Recorded seven goals and eight assists in all competitions, starting 25 of 32 appearances.
2020 Forecast: Gerso’s speed and shiftiness on the wing gives Sporting an added dimension. Whether he starts or comes off the bench as a high-energy sub, the diminutive 28-year-old will look to make year No. 4 in MLS his best yet.
2019 Recap: Tallied one goal and started 12 of 17 USL Championship appearances in his first professional season with Sporting KC II.
2020 Forecast: Freeman is likely to get more opportunities at the USL Championship level with Sporting II, and if he makes the most out of them, an MLS debut could be on the near horizon.
2019 Recap: Scored two goals while starting nine of 16 appearances in all competitions.
2020 Forecast: Maybe the strongest field player on the team, Hurtado packs a punch in the center forward position. His physicality among defenders and work rate as the first line of defense both stand out.
2019 Recap: Scored 17 times over the course of the year for Chivas de Guadalajara, including a Liga MX-best 12 goals during the 2019 Apertura fall season.
2020 Forecast: Sporting’s record signing arrives in Kansas City with plenty of fanfare, having claimed the Liga MX scoring title just a few months ago. The striker’s home debut will be among the most anticipated in the history of Children’s Mercy Park.
2019 Recap: Recorded nine goals and 11 assists in all competitions, starting 29 of 34 appearances as the club’s Offensive Player of the Year.
2020 Forecast: The Scottish international has delivered two standout seasons in a row, and Sporting fans are betting that a third is in the cards. Russell’s slaloming incisiveness on the wing is a delight to watch.
2019 Recap: Notched a goal and an assist while starting 19 of 33 appearances in all competitions.
2020 Forecast: The Hungary-born Academy product led Sporting with 16 goals in 2018 before seeing his production drop last year, but Salloi has already netted twice during the 2020 preseason and looks poised for a terrific bounce back.
2019 Recap: Spent the entire year in Germany with SC Paderborn 07, making six appearances and helping the club earn promotion to the top-flight Bundesliga.
2020 Forecast: Sporting won at a very high level when Shelton was an integral part of the club’s attack in 2018. Now that he’s back, teammates and fans alike will hope that trend continues.