SBI MLS Team Previews: Kansas City Wizards

Kansas City Wizards - JPEG
By AVI CREDITOR

Extreme Makeover: Kansas City Wizards edition.

No, it's not a new television series. It's what happened to the roster of the third-worst team in the league during the 2009 season.

Many of the team's stalwarts are still in place, but Kevin Hartman, Herculez Gomez and Claudio Lopez are not. A slew of new players have been brought in to jump-start this squad guided by Peter Vermes, who dropped the interim-coach tag in the offseason.

The team has seemingly taken a strength-in-numbers approach, bringing in nine (and counting) players to, among other things, beef up the midfield and forward positions that sorely lacked a punch last season. Only the New York Red Bulls scored fewer goals in 2009, so the moves were definitely warranted. But will they pay off? The answer to that question will be the reason that Kansas City either makes a postseason run or finishes near the bottom of the table again.   

Here is a look at the 2010 Kansas City Wizards:

2010 KANSAS CITY WIZARDS

Players to Watch – Jimmy Nielsen, Kei Kamara, Josh Wolff, Davy Arnaud, Jimmy Conrad, Jack Jewsbury

Key Arrivals – Jimmy Nielsen, Teal Bunbury, Pablo Escobar, Stephane Auvray, Craig Rocastle, Ryan Smith, Igor Kostrov, Birahim Diop

Key Departures – Kevin Hartman, Herculez Gomez, Claudio Lopez, Adam Cristman

Projected Lineup (New starters in bold)

———————-Davy Arnaud——–Josh Wolff—————————

——Ryan Smith————————————–Kei Kamara————-

——————-Stephane Auvray———Jack Jewsbury——————

Roger Espinoza—-Pablo Escobar—–Jimmy Conrad——–Chance Myers

———————————-Jimmy Nielsen———————————

Biggest Question – Will the roster overhaul improve the offense?

Kansas City's inability to score last season was a serious problem, and if the newest members of the team can't help rectify that issue, then the team will continue to disappoint. However, there's reason to think that the team will score with greater proficiency this season.

Smith and Kamara performed well in the preseason, and the team drafted Bunbury (whose father, Alex, played for the team in 1999 and 2000) in the first round because of his finishing ability.

Kamara, playing in his first full season with the team, has the most upside out of the bunch and could be in for a breakout year with the right service from the modified midfield. Kansas City's attack is full of "ifs" and "coulds," which isn't a bad thing… IF hopes come to fruition.

X-Factor – Kamara/Jimmy Nielsen

As stated above, Kamara realizing his potential would pay great dividends for Kansas City's attack. While the defense isn't as much in question with Conrad and Escobar providing a strong duo in the middle, the team did alter the backbone of the unit.

Nielsen comes with a strong pedigree, but he'll replace Kevin Hartman, as close to a sure thing as there has been in goal in MLS. With Hartman now in Dallas, the spotlight will shine brightly on Nielsen to produce in between the pipes. If he cannot provide the kind of leadership and high-level play like Hartman did, the Wizards could suffer greatly.

Outlook - Last season's results not withstanding, this team actually looks pretty decent on paper. With all the unknowns on the roster it will be crucial for everyone to mesh with the long-standing veterans on the team like Arnaud, Wolff and Conrad. It may take time for roles to shake out and for chemistry to develop, but there is plenty of potential in the new signings.

If Vermes can work out all the kinks and a high percentage of the new signings pan out, then a run to the postseason would not be unexpected. 

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24 Responses to SBI MLS Team Previews: Kansas City Wizards

  1. Graham says:

    Stephane Auvray could be the X factor for the Wizards this season. He’s been very impressive in pre-season.

  2. Coke says:

    In other news… Kansas City continues its crack habit with the signing of Pablo Escobar.

  3. rory says:

    What about the Indian national team player? Will he be signed soon?

  4. einar says:

    i still will miss Lopez. I think the wizards were dirty for what they did to Lopez. He has great quality on the pitch. And he scored a bomber from the mid point past ricketts!! not that my analysis of lopez comes from that lone goal of course.

  5. Justin says:

    I think its more likely we will see this lineup:

    ———————-Davy Arnaud——–Josh Wolff—————————

    ——Ryan Smith————————————–Chance Myers————-

    ——————-Stephane Auvray———Jack Jewsbury——————

    Roger Espinoza—-Pablo Escobar—–Jimmy Conrad——–Michael Harrington

    ———————————-Jimmy Nielsen———————————

  6. Justin says:

    Well, the copy and past job failed miserably.

  7. Jay says:

    The Wizards were dirty for what they did to Lopez? Would you care to explain that comment? They couldnt come to agreement on terms of another contract. It happens all the time in sports.

  8. paul says:

    I actually think KC will do well this year, not championship winners or anything…but I feel like people are underestimating them. Could be wrong since I don’t follow them too closely. The Indian striker sounds like he will be fun to watch…assuming he signs.

  9. Anyone else having trouble with espn360? The new window comes up but nothing loads inside it.

  10. BetaMale says:

    What about that Arsenal product that they supposedly scooped up?

  11. James says:

    What exactly did the Wizards do to Lopez?

  12. Drew says:

    That’s Ryan Smith, who fans have said looks good during preseason.

  13. BetaMale says:

    Not sure if I can post this here, but its a good read about him

    link to matchfitusa.com

  14. bc says:

    Isn’t it more likely that Kamara starts up top and Arnaud on the right?

    Also, has Escobar had a good preseason — to the extent that he’ll start out of the gate? I didn’t get that impression from the KC blogs/forums. Seems like Besler or Hohlbein are more likely to get the nod against DC…

  15. Well, I feel like I have (almost) a brand new squad on the field. I’m going to hold back any preconceptions until a couple matches into the season. With so many new players there’s a ton of question marks as to who the true starters will be and who works well with whom. I wouldn’t even project Davy Arnaud as a starter in the first match pending on how Vermes feels who is teaming up well to score goals.
    The one player never mentioned here that I am hoping to see break out is Zolt├ín Hercegfalvi. He has touch, strength, and runs all over the pitch to make himself an available target. If he starts scoring goals, he could become the Wizards point man and then it’s a battle between a handful of players for the other starting striker spot. Will be an interesting first month of the season.

  16. Steve says:

    What about Hohlbein?

  17. ERic says:

    Crap, there’s a lot of teams in MLS now.
    :D

  18. Felix says:

    I predict the Wizards will have a killer defense with Pablo Escobar in the back now…. what come one??

  19. MOUF says:

    think you got some players mix up man

  20. MOUF says:

    I am betting that Harrington will start at RB and Myers will be the wing. Keep Davy up top and figure out who pairs with him better. I really like what Kamara brings to the table, so I would prefer him paired with Davy.

    Apparently Ryan Smith, Chance Myers, and Micheal Harrington have been playing great in presesaon.

  21. MOUF says:

    should see of real juggling of players up top, Bunbury is gunna have his work cut out for him to see some time

  22. Michael says:

    Matt Besler will be starting. I’ve watched practices and Pablo Escobar looks slow and out of shape….the contrary to Besler.

  23. Jammer says:

    I’m also hoping Zoltan breaks out, he impressed me last year. Here is a line up that downthebyline.com listed as starting couple preseason games

    Arnaud Wolff
    Smith Auvray Diop Myers
    Espinoza Besler Conrad Harrington
    Nielsen

    Myers wasn’t in bold in the article, but I don’t recall him starting much last year. Counting him, this lineup has an entirely new midfield. Whatever we see in game one, with so many new players it could be fierce competition for the starts over the season.

  24. I was going to say, don’t forget the Zoltan!

    His history is, he is a streaky forward, but knows how to produce goals.