Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2012 Sporting KC season preview

             What wasn’t to like about the 2011 season?  The team overcame a rough start to make it to the conference finals, young players made huge strides in development (see Bunbury, Sapong, Zusi, Myers), and the fans and players alike went crazy over the new Livestrong Sporting Park.  With 2011 being as amazing as it was, the bar has been set pretty high for 2012, but management has proven its commitment to the team’s success by bringing in world class talent and creating an attacking front line that could hold their own on any stage. 

With the addition of Bobby Convey from San Jose, Sporting is potentially looking at a front three of CJ Sapong, Teal Bunbury, and Kei Kamara, with Bobby Convey and Graham Zusi playing a creator/roaming midfielder role with Roger Espinoza as the holding defensive mid in a modified 4-3-3 (really a 4-1-2-3).  With an insane mixture of athleticism, finishing touch, and ability to create, this is a scary group to face for any MLS team.  This is of course excluding the likes of first round draft pick Dom Dwyer (who scored a hat trick against DC in the preseason) and Soony Saad, who would both be instant starters on many MLS teams, but will likely be relegated to backup roles for most of the season barring injury.

As scary as the before mentioned lineup could be, it has yet to be decided whether Convey will be penciled in at left wing striker or at midfielder, as he has gotten plenty of time at each during training.  As for the defense, “captain throw-in” Matt Besler and the brutally physical Aurelien Collin have the center defense on lock down while Chance Myers will man the right wing after showing the type of grit and speed that a coach dreams of having in a wing defender.  The left wing defender going into the season will again be Seth Sinovic, however, this marks one of the few question marks on the team as it is one of the only spots that could be improved upon in-house.  If Sinovic falters, he could potentially be supplanted by the young Englishman Korede Aiyegbusi, who has had a very good camp, or the ever solid Michael Harrington.

It is hard not to be excited if you are a Sporting fan; with the opportunity to watch a full season of a team with great chemistry, a regular schedule (unlike last year), and an improved roster.  It is hard not to label them the team to beat in the east, but I will refrain from doing so until they leave me no choice.  In the meantime, here is to the 2012 season, and a quick congrats to Zusi on his first national team goal against panama last month.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Catching Up!

Sorry for the short absence Kansas City.  Stuff comes up, you get preoccupied with things, you know how it goes.  The main thing is I am back now!  Let’s not waste any time and catch up on some Chiefs talk!  The past two weeks KC has looked like they belong in the NFL again after the worst two game start to a season I have ever seen from any team in any sport.  Injuries to Eric Berry, Tony Jr. (Gonzales his senior), and Jamaal Charles gave fans little hope.  I don’t know how many of you listen to the Church of Lazlo on 96.5 the buzz, but if you do maybe some of you  have more hope now that the curse of the Lotzi is over, if you believe in that kind of thing.

I am still scratching my head a little as to why Le’ron Mcclain and Dexter Mccluster aren’t getting premier back carries.  Thomas Jones has clearly hit his limit and looks far slower and less explosive than he did last year and his counterparts are a perfect thunder and lightning combo.  With that said, Casey Weigman is another player who has hit his limit.  While he I doesn’t make silly mistakes, he often looks overmatched and overpowered, which would lead me to believe we will be seeing more of Rodney Hudson as the season progresses.  I am also shocked Jared Gaither hasn’t taken the starting right tackle spot from Barry Richardson yet.

I look for the Chiefs passing game to pick up in the coming weeks, as Cassel is a notoriously slow starter (refer to last season & his starting season with the Patriots) but picks it up in week three or four.  He is even starting to notice Steve Breaston’s downfield speed opens up the middle of the field for Dwayne Bowe and Leonard Pope.  Regardless, the Chiefs show life and have been competitive the last two weeks, which is all you can ask after the first two games.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Chargers Hype... Really, Still?

Every year the Chargers are chosen by ESPN to run away with the division, make it to the Super Bowl, and have a surprise appearance by Jesus.  They claim that every year they are going to “put it all together” and that they are “more motivated than ever” yet somehow every year, they underachieve.  Quite frankly, it’s getting old.  Now that we have a good football team in Kansas City I find it even more insane that ESPN thinks that it is a give me, especially since the Chiefs have added some key pieces this offseason.  Yes, the Chargers have won the division more often than not in recent years, but that is mainly I part of the lack of competition they had within the division.  It makes zero sense to me why they continue to preach the gospel of San Diego year after year.  Here is the full “five things you should know about the Chargers” article from ESPN if you are interested.  We will look at each “thing” and then answer the question of whether it is a valid point (or not) and why.

1. Rivers is refreshed: This season ought to be easy for Philip Rivers. Last year, top receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd and tight and Antonio Gates were on the field together for about a quarter of a game. Jackson held out much of the season. Floyd and Gates were hurt late in the season. By the end of the year, Rivers was throwing passes to street free agents. He threw to 17 different receivers. Yet Rivers managed to throw for a career-high 4,710 yards. Imagine what Rivers will do with a healthy receiving base.

Valid? - I don’t know if refreshed is the word… Rivers is an elite quarterback, and having Vincent Jackson back is huge, but to say it is going to be easy for him this year is little over done.  The offensive line is a little shaky with starting left tackle Marcus Mcneil missing parts of the preseason with knee surgery.  Not to mention, Antonio Gates is another year older, but aside from being more susceptible to injury, I don’t see it effecting him too much.

2. The pass rush is on: KC Joyner, the Football Scientist, expects the Chargers to bring the heat this year. The Chargers had a very respectable 47 sacks last season. They have a chance for a lot more this season. Joyner said the Chargers' 2011 opponents allowed a combined 592 sacks last season. That total ranks as the seventh most in the league. Expect the Chargers to blitz often under aggressive new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

Valid? Not even close.  Yes the Chargers like to rush the quarterback and weren’t bad at it last year, however, this isn’t the same defense.  They have lost starting linebacker Kevin Burnett, back up middle linebacker Brandon Siler, and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman.  That is a lot of lost sacks and run stops.  If you add in starting middle linebacker Stephen Cooper's torn bicep that he is going to try and play through (we know how that will go) before deciding whether he should get surgery or wait, you are in trouble.  Last year was San Diego’s defense at its finest, and with a new defensive coordinator and new personnel, it is hard to be too eager this soon about the Chargers D.

3. Tolbert will be a horse: Just because the Chargers plan to use second-year running back Ryan Mathews a lot, don't think sturdy tailback Mike Tolbert will be forgotten. The Chargers love this guy, and Mathews and Tolbert will both get a lot of carries. In fact, if Mathews' durability issues continue or if he is slow to develop, I could see Tolbert getting most of the carries. Coach Norv Turner completely trusts Tolbert and loves how hard he runs. Tolbert is a plus player in every facet of the Chargers' offense.

Valid? I agree with ESPN on this one, Mike Tolbert is a horse.  He is very underrated and probably deserves to be the number one back on the team after last seasons performance.

4. Liuget is legit: It's not often that the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL adds a potentially dominant front-three player. That's exactly what the Chargers have done. They took Illinois defensive end Corey Liuget with the No. 18 pick. Liuget has been explosive, and he has been a playmaker in camp. He often gets into the offensive backfield. He is a humble player who is willing to learn. The Chargers can't wait to unleash him in their starting lineup, giving them a playmaker to pair next to standout nose tackle Antonio Garay.

Valid? I haven’t seen much of the guy, so I would be out of my element to say much about him.  However, I do know that they aren’t starting Liuget, but instead the solid but never flashy Jacque Cesaire at end, which should say at least a little bit.  While I don't doubt he will be good in time, I would be shocked to see a backup defensive lineman go all Ndamukong Sue in his first year.

5. Spikes and Sanders are on a mission: The Chargers added veteran safety Bob Sanders and veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes to their defense. For Sanders, it's a chance to show he can still be the player who won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2007. He has played a total of nine games in the past three seasons because of injury. He has been healthy this summer, and he looks like the old Sanders. This is Spikes' 14th NFL season. He has never been to the postseason. Spikes knows this year is his best chance, and his play this summer has been inspired.

Valid? They may be on a mission, but that doesn’t mean they are good at it.  Here is a fun fact: Bob Sanders has played a total of nine games in the past three seasons.  He has only played more than six games in a season twice in his seven year career.  It is a relatively safe bet to say that even if Bob Sanders stays healthy all year (which is very unlikely) he will be very rusty and a far less aggressive player.  As for Takeo Spikes, he has no problem staying healthy, but he will turn 35 this year and isn’t even close to the same player he used to be.  Don’t believe me? 2010 was the first time in his 13 year NFL career that Spikes didn’t record a single sack in all 15 games he played.  So while I won’t argue that he is inspired, if you even try to talk me into believing that Spikes is an upgrade or spark at linebacker, I would call you delusional.