By Sporting KC News
Sporting KC's attack in 2018 was the best in club history. The team scored 65 regular season league goals, good enough for 4th in the league. However, some players performed better than others.
JFR became an instant fan favorite for SKC. He was the dynamic winger that SKC had been looking for for years. Russell was seen running up and down the right side of the field and splitting defenders all season long. While not all his ideas came to fruition, he tallied double digits in both goals and assists. Russell will surely stay in KC for a while, but can he maintain his high number of goals and assists?
Salloi took a big step forward in 2018. He scored 11 goals and assisted 7 in MLS regular season play, and he earned the team’s golden boot. Salloi was an incredibly lethal weapon for this team, particularly at times when SKC needed a goal the most. Salloi scored six game-winners throughout the year. He did hit a long dry spell in the summer months, but Salloi heated up right around playoff time. Salloi was one of the best homegrown and winger in the league, and he will undoubtedly get interest from Europe. It is likely that he will stick around for 2019. For next year, he needs to develop consistency and get a better first touch.
Gerso’s second season with SKC provided many ups and downs. In the spring, he couldn’t get much playing time. Then, he started almost every game in the summer before going back to the bench down the stretch. Gerso was very good with the ball, but he often the lacked the quality to pull of a shot or cross, especially with his right foot. Nonetheless, 5g/5a is a solid number for a non-starter.
After Dom Dwyer left, Diego Rubio was automatically assumed to be the starting striker for SKC. Things weren’t that easy for the Chilean. Khiry Shelton won the starting job in the spring, but Rubio worked hard and got multiple goals as a substitute. Soon enough, he hit a hot streak in August. Then, he got a minor injury and bounced in and out of the starting lineup until it was clear he was the number one choice in the playoffs. Rubio is a great finisher, but in some games, he can disappear completely. Rubio is definitely a player to watch in 2018, as he could be really good or really bad.
Shelton may be the most puzzling member of the attack. He quickly became the starting striker in March, but he didn’t score a goal until late May. In fact, he ended up scoring only two goals all season long. Shelton squashed many big opportunities throughout the year, but it always felt like everyone else scored when Shelton was on the pitch. He made space for players like Gutierrez, Salloi, and Russell. Also, Shelton faced the difficulty of having surgery in the middle of the season to repair a torn MCL, but he came back and still made an impact for the team late in the year. Unfortunately, Shelton’s last games were some of his worst, as his positive form was nonexistent in the playoffs. It looks like he will try to use his talents elsewhere, and SKC will have to decide whether a player like him is worth having.
Nemeth arrived in August and was advertised as the striker Sporting had been looking for all season. The issue was that Rubio suddenly went on a hot streak, and Nemeth couldn’t get a start. When he finally did get some playing time, he looked lost. I think he couldn’t adjust to the team quick enough, and they couldn’t adjust to him. Given his high salary, it would be an extreme disappointment if he didn’t make a huge impact next year.
Belmar didn’t do much for SKC, but he was a very lethal threat for Swope Park Rangers. He couldn’t break into the first team, and his contract option was declined. Belmar quickly signed with future expansion club Nashville SC.