Justin Mayhugh, KC SportsNation
On Tuesday Sporting Kansas City introduced the club’s newest acquisition, Argentinean forward Claudio Bieler, at a press conference at Livestrong Sporting Park. Bieler, 28, will become the fourth designated player in the club’s history (the others being Claudio Lopez, Omar Bravo, and Jeferson).
The signing of the former LDU Quito target-man probably caps off what has been a fast-paced and furious off season for Sporting KC, with the team adding a total of five players that should help keep the club in contention for the MLS Cup, and also allow them the roster flexibility to compete in three different competitions (MLS, US Open Cup, Champions League) in 2013.
With the loss of salary cap casualty Julio Cesar, as well as midfield-engine Roger Espinoza, it was clear at the end of a fine regular season, yet disappointing 2012 playoff campaign, that Sporting KC were going to have some major holes to fill if they were going to continue their regular-season dominance of the MLS Eastern Conference.
To further complicate Sporting Kansas City’s off-season situation, the club’s best defender, center back Matt Besler, was out of contract, and garnering attention from various teams overseas.
The potential was there for a massive loss of talent on the squad heading into the 2013 regular season that could potentially undermine what has been a whirlwind two years of regular season success for the organization.
But instead of allowing the club to regress with the loss of players such as Espinoza and the uncertainty of Besler’s future with the team, Sporting Kansas City’s front office appears even more determined to improve a team that has finished in first place in the Eastern Conference the past two years.
Perhaps top on the club’s priority list was finding a way to re-sign Besler, the reigning MLS Defender of the Year. It didn’t hurt Sporting Kansas City’s chances that Besler was born and raised in the Kansas City area, and ultimately, the two sides came to an agreement on a three-year contract that should keep Sporting’s defense one of the most dominant in MLS.
Sporting KC acquired midfielder Benny Feilhaber from New England to help lessen the blow of Espinoza heading to Wigan Athletic. For as good of a midfielder as Espinoza has been, Feilhaber, a player with international pedigree, should help improve the team’s offense, as he excels at creating scoring opportunities for the forwards.
Kansas City also traded for San Jose Earthquakes center back Ike Opara, Montreal Impact defender Josh Gardner, and signed French prospect Yann Songo’o, which will provide solid depth along Sporting KC’s back line. With as many matches as Sporting KC will be playing in next season, that added depth will be key if Kansas City hopes to make an extended run in the US Open Cup and Champions League.