With MLS First Kick less than 48 hours away, we're bringing back an SBN-MLS tradition, as well as a reader favorite. In order to preview Saturday's match between D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City, we exchanged three questions with Alex Englan of SB Nation's SKC blog The Daily Wiz. The questions are mine. The answers are his.
Sporting Kansas City finished the 2011 season with a +10 goal differential, the third best in MLS, but lost 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo in the playoffs when it mattered most. The Sporks are known for their offensive firepower, but what has the team done to improve the defense?
Defensively, the biggest thing that has been done by the coaching staff to improve in that area for next season has been to just keep all 4 of the starting defenders together from last year. If you looked at our back line at the end of 2010 and heading into the 2011 season only one player (Matt Besler) is even a prominent figure in Sporting KC's defense anymore, so keeping the guys together was a huge accomplishment in it of its self.
Now, heading into this year' campaign Sporting KC have one of the best center back partnerships in the league with Besler and Aurelien Collin. There have been questions raised though as to who will fill in if one of our first choice center backs falls to injury or suspension during the season due to the fact that the two central defenders behind Besler and Collin have amassed just 1 MLS appearance between them.
Omar Bravo has returned to Mexico this year. How will Kansas City replace his leadership and production?
Well, it will certainly be hard. Besides losing Bravo Sporting KC also lost MLS veterans Davy Arnaud and Shavar Thomas to the Montreal Impact over the course of the off-season. Head coach Peter Vermes has tried to address these issues by bringing in experienced MLSers like Jacob Peterson, Bobby Convey and Paulo Nagamura and the club is also starting to see the emergence of leadership through players that have been here for a while too. Guys like Michael Harrington, Kei Kamara, and the ever present Jimmy Nielsen will all likely see leadership roles in the 2012 campaign.
Is SKC likely to repeat as regular season champions of the Eastern Conference?
Definitely, that has got to be the goal for this side. With the facilities,players, and staff we have there should be no excuse to not finish first in the East. I think even with some of the guys that we lost during the offseason this team is still a formidable side.