KANSAS CITY, KS - AUGUST 03: Graham Zusi #8 of Sporting Kansas City celebrates with Teal Bunbury #9 after Bunbury scored a goal during the first half of the game against Real Salt Lake on August 3, 2011 at LiveStrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Welcome to the first edition of The Daily Wiz Round Table. Basically, it's just us at The Daily Wiz giving our thoughts on various Sporting Kansas City topics.
For the inaugural edition, topics will be covered by myself (Justin), and Joe (TDW's USMNT writer). Future editions should have more of an actual round table effect, as Alex will be joining in on the conversations, and we'll be looking to have a guest share their views as well. For now, hopefully you'll enjoy our thoughts on the off season signings, our early predictions on who will be Sporting's 2012 MVP and team captain, and what kind of impact we think Dom Dwyer and Cyprian Hedrick will have during their rookie seasons.
We'd love to read your thoughts on these particular topics, so feel free to share your opinions in the comments.
Joe- Right now, Convey is a starter on the left wing, and probably happier than most of his career about that. I think having a traditional left winger should help the width of the team, since our central midfield formation sometimes leaves us wanting for width.
Nagamura should be filling a space, alongside Zusi, second-choice for Julio Cesar as CDM, switching in and out of the lineup with Espinoza. Peterson, right now, looks like a depth signing at a position where we already had depth. He should be getting minutes if Bunbury and Sapong end up in London, but that is five months and three or four decisions away.
Justin- We're on the same page about Bobby Convey. I've wrote a little bit about the Convey signing, and I know some fans aren't too big on it, but I think it's a very good move from Sporting, for reasons you eluded to. As much as I loved Omar Bravo last season, there were two things I noticed over the course of the 2011 season; he would disappear for stretches during games, and he still had a striker's mentality in a lot of ways. He was always wanting to cut back in to the heart of a defense instead of getting out wide, and providing service to the forwards. Convey fixes that problem, at least on paper.
With Paulo I see him as being the first guy off the bench for any of the three midfield spots, and on occasion, starting when Graham, Roger, or Julio need rest. It seems like if Nagamura is healthy, then he'll be a great fit for Kansas City. It's a big "if" though, given his injury history.
To me, Jacob is strictly depth at this point. I don't really see him having too much of an impact unless someone goes down with an injury.
Early guess at who will be Sporting Kansas City's MVP, and why?
Joe- If he improves upon last year, it has to be Graham Zusi. The team is going to be built around his play. If our defense slips up too much, Jimmy Nielsen obviously comes up big for us, but I would prefer our defense is solid enough that our keeper isn't always our MVP.
Justin- I really have three players in mind. Zusi, who you mentioned, and then Matt Besler, and Jimmy Nielsen. There was a stretch of games towards the end of last season where I felt like Graham disappeared a bit, but if he continues to progress from what we saw last season, then I do think he's the MVP.
Besler did about as much last season as a defender can do to win an MVP award, and he still didn't win it. But he's the heart of the defense, and in a lot of ways, the heart of the entire team, and I think he'll merit some real consideration again this season.
I put Jimmy on the short list because he won the award last season, but I don't think he'll have to make as many great saves in 2012. This will be the back line's second season together, and I anticipate them improving as a unit quite a bit.
Prediction on who will be Kansas City's team captain in 2012?
Joe- Matt Besler is a good bet. My second choice would be Nielsen. From what we've heard, Besler headed the off-season charge to stay in Kansas City and train. I think as much as anyone he's been demonstrating the leadership needed, but I really have no clear idea.
Justin- We have the same two players in mind, but I have Jimmy as the captain. I just think he makes a ton of sense. Veteran leader, MVP of the team last season. In the long term, I think the arm band will belong to Matt, but in 2012 I think it's Jimmy's.
What were your thoughts on CJ, Teal, and Graham during the two international friendlies? Who hurt and who helped their case?
Joe- I think CJ hurt himself the least. He still has room to develop, but you know exactly what you're getting. The problem with that is he is a 23 year old version of 19 year old Jozy, more consistent but still just a physical monster. Teal had two rough nights, but his talent and the lack of depth will keep him on the radar until he Eddie Johnsons and his confidence has never been that low.
Zusi also had two off nights, given that he was playing out of position. The problem for Zusi will be that the depth in center midfield will never get better, at some point Stuart Holden and Jose Francisco Torres will return. He needed to show Klinsmann he could play as a right midfielder and he failed at that in these two games. He will get another chance, but I'm not sure it will be outside of January.
Justin- I thought CJ did a solid job for the little amount of time that he got. I would love to see what he can do in a full 90 minutes, or something close to that. The big question for CJ will be "can he become a consistent goal scoring threat in the run of play?" He's already a force on set pieces, and he's pretty darn good with his back to the goal, but he's not that center forward that can get past the opposition's back line and slot one past the goalkeeper. At least not yet. But I do think he showed Jurgen enough to warrant a closer look.
I did think Graham looked really uncomfortable in the first friendly, which is understandable, given the fact that he was playing out of position. You make a valid point about the depth of the USMNT midfield. It's going to be a challenge for Zusi to find a spot in there, but I think he might be able to find a niche if he can continue to improve, given how dangerous he is providing service on set pieces. I suppose I may be overstating the importance of having someone that can consistently put the ball in dangerous positions like Graham can on corners and free kicks, but I think it's something that he does better than almost anyone in MLS or the USMNT for that matter. If I was Klinsmann, I would want a player that can provide that on my team.
Being completely honest, Teal's performances were pretty disappointing. I've said before that I think 2012 is the year that Teal will break out, but after seeing his first touch during those two friendlies, I have to say I'm wanting to back away from my prediction a little bit. I suppose it's the same Teal we've come to know over time, but he definitely looked like he was in a funk out there. If he could find a way to consistently play the way he did against Houston in September of last year then the sky would be the limit, and we'd be talking about Teal playing for Bolton. Instead, we're talking about whether he should start for Sporting.
What kind of impact do you see Dom Dwyer and Cyprian Hedrick having this season?
Joe- I think neither is likely to come forward as a difference maker this season. For Dwyer, the chances are sure to come when the Olympics come around, assuming the United States qualifies. Given Sapong's progress and the almost inevitability of Burnbury's inclusion, either he or Soony Said should get some playing time.
As for Hedrick, while his development may not be as far along as Dwyer, the depth at center back has not yet been addressed. If there is an injury, I would expect him to be in the conversation for playing time, although I see Vermes shifting Julio Cesar back into center back for better or worse.
Justin- Agree with you about this year's draft selections. I don't think we'll see Dom in the running for the Rookie of the Year award in 2012. Not because he's not capable, but we already have a ton of options at striker, which is his natural position. Right now, I'd have to think that Teal, CJ, and Soony would all be ahead of Dom on the depth chart. Of course, Peter Vermes could decide to play him out wide, and maybe Dom will set the world on fire on the flank, but I don't see that happening with Convey, and Kei Kamara as the starters.
I think Cyprian really only plays if a center back or two goes down with an injury. Besler and Aurelien Collin are the guys in the middle, and I'd have to think that Daneil Cyrus and Lawrence Olum would have a leg up on Cyp right now.