MLSsoccer.com: Sporting KC 2020 Season Preview

Sporting Kansas City missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010 last year ... but their offseason moves indicate they’re not about to let it happen again. They’ve addressed their long-standing need at center forward with a multi-million dollar purchase that signals the club is ready to compete in this new era of MLS. However, the biggest questions — perhaps for the first time in a decade — might be about their defense.

2019 Finish

  • MLS Reg. Season: 38 points (10W-16L-8D), 11th in West / 21st overall
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify
  • U.S. Open Cup: Eliminated in 4th Round (vs. Minnesota United)
  • Concacaf Champions League: Eliminated in SFs (vs. Monterrey)

Star players

  • Alan Pulido — He’s a new arrival, but you’ve got to give him his due and count him as a star here. SKC paid top dollar for the reigning Liga MX scoring champion, and he will be expected to immediately deliver goals for a team that has long been wanting for production at center forward.
  • Johnny Russell — The Scottish winger has been as fun to watch as he has been productive in his two years in Kansas City. He can do it all in the attacking third, both setting up his teammates and scoring for himself (he’s had equal goal and assist totals in both seasons, 19 of each in total), and should thrive in concert with a striker as talented as Pulido.
  • Felipe Gutierrez — Gutierrez brings the “third heat” to Sporting’s attack, presenting a legitimate goalscoring option from central midfield. If he, Pulido, Russell and Gerso can get firing on all cylinders, put Sporting KC’s attack up there with the best in the league.

Key acquisitions and departures

  • IN: Alan Pulido — Brining in the Mexico international striker from Chivas Guadalajara was a major statement of intent for SKC.
  • IN: Roberto Puncec / Winston Reid — While the spotlight and expectations will largely be on Pulido up front, the 67 goals Sporting conceded in 2019 might be the most telling stat from last season. They've added two experienced defenders — including World Cup veteran and New Zealand captain Reid — to help make sure it doesn't happen again.
  • IN: Gadi Kinda — The  Ethiopia-born Israeli attacking midfielder may not be a starter on opening day, but is definitely one to keep an eye on. Don’t be surprised when you see him in a few highlight reels this season.
  • OUT: Seth Sinovic — The veteran left back will be fondly remembered for his nine years of service in Kansas City, but was ultimately supplanted as a starter by summer 2019 arrival Luis Martins.
  • OUT: Benny Feilhaber — Another well-liked veteran (and, like Sinovic, a 2013 MLS Cup winner with SKC) that was ultimately the victim of a numbers game in central midfield.
  • OUT: Krisztian Nemeth — There's little to question about his talent, but has the makings of a situation where the team was looking for a little more production and availability from a player that made a shade over $1 million guaranteed compensation in 2019, per the MLS Players Association.

Projected Starting XI

2020 Roster (as of Feb. 17)

  • Goalkeepers (3): Eric Dick, Tim Melia, Richard Sanchez
  • Defenders (10): Botond Barath, Matt Besler, Amadou Dia, Andreu Fontas, Jaylin Lindsey, Luis Martins, Roberto Puncec, Winston Reid, Graham Smith, Graham Zusi
  • Midfielders (8): Gianluca Busio, Cameron Duke, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez, Felipe Hernandez, Gadi Kinda, Ilie Sanchez, Wan Kuzain
  • Forwards (7): Gerso Fernandes, Tyler Freeman, Erik Hurtado, Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Khiry Shelton
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