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.