Looking at 2010: Kansas City Wizards

Looking at 2010: Kansas City Wizards

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On February 15, 2010
  • 0 Comments
  • Chance Myers, Claudio Lopez, Davy Arnaud, Jimmy Conrad, Jimmy Nielsen, Josh Wolff, Kei Kamara, Matt Besler, Michael Harrington, Pablo Escobar, Peter Vermes, Santiago Hirsig, Stéphane Auvray, Teal Bunbury

Jimmy Conrad and Josh Wolff will be called to lead in 2010 for KC. (WVH Photo Correspondent Brian Stevens)

We’re continuing on today with our look at each Major League Soccer club’s pre-season outlook of what players they have on board and where they need to go next before the new season kicks off. So far we’ve covered nearly half of the league with Chicago, Colorado, Chivas, Columbus, DC, Dallas, Houston and Philadelphia all already looked at here.

Today we go to the middle of the country to take a look at the Kansas City Wizards and what coach/technical director Peter Vermes is doing with his club.

The Wizards had a shaky season in 2009 but they hope a few changes around their roster will be enough to stay with the top of the pack in an already tough eastern conference.

So let’s see what the Wizards have done with their winter and where they need to go from here.

Keepers:

Who they have: Jimmy Nielsen, Eric Kronberg, and Boris Pardo.

Notes: Gone are the days of Kevin Hartman and now come the time for Nielsen. A lot of folks in KC probably aren’t too happy to see Hartman be let go so easily here but as I mentioned last week it was a change I think the club needed to make this winter. Look I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Hartman but sometimes change is necessary and this was just a move I think they needed to make. I’m also not saying Nielsen will be any better but Hartman wasn’t exactly putting KC over the top.

I know the club currently has a couple other trialist in camp right now so it will be interesting to see who pushes to be Nielsen’s backup this year.

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Defense:

Who they have: Jimmy Conrad, Chance Myers, Michael Harrington, Matt Besler, Lance Watson, Aaron Hohlbein, Jonathan Leathers, Pablo Escobar, Olukorede Aiyegbusi, and Nick Cardenas.

Notes: Collectively on paper they should be a better group then what we’ve seen over the last couple years. I may be putting too much of a premium on Conrad here, he’s a great leader out there but maybe he just isn’t able to get the rest of these guys up to his level and the group suffers for it. I honestly don’t know because again on paper they look like they should be good with guys like Besler (very underrated player) and Harrington (another solid player) but last year they were up there in goals against with 42.

I think though with Vermes coaching this bunch full time we’ll see some improvement in this bunch this year. I honestly have no idea what Escobar will bring to the table but if we base anything off past moves from South America from this club the expectations shouldn’t be placed too high for him (remember Carlos Marinelli or Eloy Colombano?). Hopefully he turns out better for them.

Big question for me though is will Myers finally become the number one pick that KC had hoped for two years ago? I still don’t know who got the better end of that deal between San Jose and the Wizards. Right now its starting to be a push more than anything as neither have seen a big impact from the players involved. Nick Garcia was traded last year to Toronto and Myers really never grew as a player in year two.

Still this group is fairly young so hopefully things are going to be looking up for them as some of these young guys finally hit their stride here.

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Midfield:

Who they have: Santiago Hirsig, Roger Espinoza, Jack Jewsbery, Kurt Morsink, Davy Arnaud, Kevin Souter, Graham Zusi, Stéphane Auvray, and Marco Fuzetti.

Notes: I like Espinoza, Jewsbery and Arnaud but the rest I’m a bit torn with as I think they have potential with guys like Zusi and newcomer Auvray. Still my worry is where will the offense be generated from this within this bunch? They honestly cannot expect Arnaud to carry the load this season. I know to a lesser extent Claudio Lopez is more of an offensive midfielder than a striker these days but that won’t cut it.

Another area I worry about is wing play for this bunch. One area they got burned in a lot of games last year was on the wings, especially on their short home field. If I’m Vermes I’d be finding talent to go on the wings as well as a true playmaker in the middle.

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Forwards:

Who they have: Claudio Lopez, Josh Wolff, Teal Bunbury, Zoltan, Kei Kamara, and Michael Kraus.

Notes: This was an area that Vermes had to concentrate over the winter months on and I think with drafting Bunbury and the new contract to Kamara he has done a pretty good job with here. The big thing will be whether or not Bunbury makes an impact in year one or not. Some reports from the training camps suggest he isn’t done all that well so far with KC but I think given the right amount of time he’ll be fine.

Kamara is said to be doing very well in KC right now and honestly I think he likes being there which is a good thing for both sides. He’s got a chance this year to really step things up and be a solid scorer for the Wizards.

The big thing will be getting Wolff involved a lot more this year. We saw last year that when used properly up top Wolff can be a very productive goal scorer for the Wizards. I think Vermes knows how to use Wolff right and with Lopez too. That’s a good thing because they need another 10+ goal year from Wolff and eight to 10 assists from Lopez to be in contention in the east. As long as those two hit those numbers and Kamara and Bunbury combine for another 10 or 14 goals they will be much better offensively than from a year ago.

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Overall:

Going into a new year Kansas City is a club I like but honestly don’t love just yet. Defensively I worry about them on the wings and in the center part of the midfield. I’m also still concerned about who will be generating the offense in the midfield this year. Offensively I do believe they’ll be much better than from a year ago as long as the guys up top are given the right space to be productive.

Conrad has to step up a bit more in the back to lead this young group and if he does I think the club will improve in the standings. They’re schedule won’t be as tight in the summer with SuperLiga and we shouldn’t expect to see many international call-ups for players on their roster except for maybe Conrad and Espinoza. I actually see Espinoza getting more international time than Conrad this year anyways.

I think Vermes needs another move or two in the midfield and they’ll be fine. I’ll be curious to see how they perform early on as they typically start well but fade in the summer.

In a way its a make or break year for Vermes. He’s built this club as a TD and now must lead them as the full-time coach. I don’t know if he’ll be under any sort of hot seat yet if they don’t do well this year but you gotta believe fans won’t be happy if they are near the bottom again in the standings in 2010.

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