As struggles continue for Sporting Kansas City, one thing is clear: the team didn’t correctly replace Krisztian Nemeth.
The Hungarian striker’s swift departure happened all in one night, having been reported and confirmed all at once. Finding a way to replicate Nemeth’s scoring record, 10 goals and six assists, was one of Sporting KC’s main tasks of the offseason.
Sporting KC then welcomed veteran midfielders Justin Mapp, who has recorded a minuscule eight minutes on the field for the club after suffering an injury, and Brad Davis. Davis has at least been on the field long enough to score two goals.
Davis and Mapp, proven contributors in MLS over the years, haven’t come close to replicating the mercurial impact Nemeth brought to the field in 2015.
It is definitely too early to assess how well Sporting KC can truly replace Nemeth’s numbers, but his absence has been felt. The team no longer has a player that can encourage the attacking play between Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer and beat opponents on the dribble. Davis and Mapp were supposed to provide the team width, but the duo have yet to fully click with their new team.
Sporting KC’ss issues don’t stop there, either. Stalwart players the team has come to depend on in recent years are underperforming. Benny Feilhaber had a monumental 2015 season, but has come back down to earth at the beginning of this one due to injury issues. Graham Zusi, free from injury and a congested international schedule, has hardly played at a DP level.
Feilhaber’s case is a difficult situation. Who could have predicted that he would be in the MVP conversation last year? Now, the 31-year-old midfielder looks a lot more human. At this point last season, Feilhaber had two goals and five assists.
With Dwyer serving as the only prong of the team’s front line this season, it has been difficult to get balls in dangerous areas in the box. Sporting changed its approach in a 1-1 draw to the Los Angeles Galaxy to get more players in the box, but still only recorded a single shot on goal.
Dedication to a system that moves the ball effectively and creates chances in volume has never been a problem for Peter Vermes. It still isn’t. The slump Sporting KC is going through now, two points in the last six games, is a result of the inability to replace a key performer in Krisztian Nemeth over the offseason and some disappointing performances from proven go-to players.