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Sporting Kansas City's depth will get tested
by Ridge Mahoney, August 18th, 2013 4:11AM
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[MLS: Playoff Push] For Sporting Kansas City's faithful, the issue isn't whether it will make the playoffs. It's what will happen when it gets there. Back to front, Sporting KC is as good as any team in MLS.

SPORTING KC:
Record: 11-7-6
First 10: 5-2-3
Last 10: 5-3-2

THE STORY SO FAR.  Another impressive regular season has at least a segment of the fan base mumbling, “Okay, now what?” Playoff fizzles the past two years can only be rectified by postseason success, of which Sporting KC is eminently capable.

RECENT MOVES. Erik Palmer-Brown was signed as a Homegrown Player, Brendan Ruiz came aboard as a free agent, and Jimmy Medranda has been added on loan from Deportivo Pereira of Colombia. They are players for the future, according to head coach Peter Vermes. A quest for Honduran midfielder Jorge Claros fell short.

STYLE POINTS. Few teams can match SKC’s talent in all portions of the field. Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara and Claudio Bieler (combined totals: 20 goals, 11 assists) are among the league’s very best attackers. Center backs Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin anchor a stingy defense (21 goals allowed in 24 games). The under-appreciated Oriol Rosell keeps a midfield that includes Benny Feilhaber ticking. Young players like Soony Saad are providing valuable contributions. Jimmy Nielsen was Goalkeeper of the Year in 2012. Any questions?

NEEDS WORK. So the question has to be, how to persevere in the playoffs? Though it is again contending for the Supporters’ Shield, SKC is also embroiled in a tightly packed Eastern Conference. This year it is a relatively modest 6-4-3 at home, where crashed out of the playoffs the past two seasons despite holding home-field advantage as the higher seed. SKC wears a stigma of wilting in the critical moments, and its depth will be tested with three CCL games to be played as the regular season winds down.

FINAL ANSWER. This is shaping up as the toughest road to MLS Cup since the league switched to intraconference playoffs in 2011 and SKC certainly has a squad as good as any in the league. Yet not getting to the final hurdle will be a crushing disappointment.

REMAINING SCHEDULE:
August 18: @San Jose
August 23: @Chicago
August 27: @Olimpia (CCL)
August 31: Colorado
September 7: Columbus
September 17: Real Esteli (CCL)
September 21: @Toronto FC
September 27: Philadelphia
October 5: @Columbus
October 9: @Houston
October 18: D.C. United
October 23: Olimpia (CCL)
October 26: @Philadelphia


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