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Fresh off another successful year in 2012, when they won the U.S. Open Cup and finished only three points behind San Jose for the Supporters' Shield, Sporting KC was nonetheless anything but content with their finish in the MLS playoffs. After an early exit against the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Sporting KC is out to prove that they have major title aspirations during the 2013 season. After opening the season at home on March 16 against the Chicago Fire, the team will travel to Los Angeles in late April to face off against the MLS Cup Champion, Galaxy, as well as play late-season grudge matches with the Houston Dynamo and the San Jose Earthquakes.

Sporting Kansas City finished in first place in the Eastern Conference for the past two years, took home the U.S. Open Cup in 2012 and have found their place among the top MLS Cup contenders heading into the 2013 season. Sporting KC is a charter member of the MLS, known as the Kansas City Wizards until they were rebranded as Sporting Kansas City after the 2010 season. The squad has experienced its ups and downs over the years, winning the 2000 MLS Cup and claiming the U.S. Open Cup in 2004, but many team observers believe that the current roster has the best shot of unseating the Los Angeles Galaxy as MLS Cup Champion and building a foundation for success.

Although the Sporting KC roster certainly has plenty of strengths, the team did experience its share of turnover during the offseason. Both forward Kei Kamara and midfielder Roger Espinoza left for the English Premier League, and depth players like defenders Michael Harrington, Korede Aiyegbuse and Konrad Warzycha, as well as midfielders Julio Cesar and Luke Sassano. However, Sporting KC made a series of big moves to pick up new scoring threats in forward Claudio Bieler and midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who was a teammate on the U.S. National Team.

With the new pieces that were added in the offseason, Sporting KC should have a stellar lineup across the board. At goalkeeper, the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Jimmy Nielsen is a master of his craft who will be backed up by Eric Kronberg, who has the talent to spell Nielsen without missing a beat. The defender situation experienced the most turnover of any spot on the roster, but most of these were at depth positions and the position will still be dominated by the dynamic tandem of Defender of the Year Matt Besler and Aurélien Collin. On the outside, Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic have proven that they are a dominant force for opposing forwards. At midfield, the group will be led by Feilhaber, but the team is hoping for continued growth from Uri Rosell, who will see extended playing time this year. The addition of Bieler, along with Bobby Convey and Graham Zusi, should cause fits for opposing goaltenders and could rank among the best scoring attacks in the MLS.

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11/21/2014 4:16:34 AM on TCWEB2