2015 MLS season preview: Sporting Kansas City
- Qualified for MLS Cup Playoffs every year since 2011
- In 2014, finished 5th in the Eastern Conference
- Knocked out by New York Red Bulls in Knockout Round
[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS previews for 2015 ]
Key player: Dom Dwyer
Dwyer’s 22 league goals scored in 2014 set a new club record. With an uncharacteristically shoddy defense down the stretch, Dwyer’s goalscoring exploits were the only thing keep Sporting KC’s hopes of repeating as MLS Cup champions alive. To get back to the promised land in 2015, it’s going to take another boatload of goals and a return of the league’s stingiest defense, as the were in 2012 and 2013. If Dwyer falters, they’ll struggle to score, big time.
Other names to watch: Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber
Head coach: Peter Vermes
Perhaps no head coach in MLS has a clearer picture of what he expects from his players and how he wants to play. With Espinoza back in the fold, the options Vermes, who is also the team’s technical director, has at his disposal are endless. Feilhaber was the most unheralded midfielder in 2014, and he’s likely to play a number of different roles this year. Finding the right balance between attack and defense has always been a bit of an issue under Vermes, but this year’s squad looks more balanced and deeper than ever before.
Despite moving to the Western Conference, they’re still a safe bet to make it back to the playoffs, anywhere between the West’s No. 2- and No. 6-seed. Without CONCACAF Champions League to worry about, they should get off to a quicker start to the regular season. Losing Besler and Zusi to the Gold Cup for a month will undoubtedly hurt, but they’re deeper in every area this year, capable of holding down the fort.