Why Sporting Kansas City Are Still MLS Cup Favorites

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2014

Sporting Kansas City's Most Valuable Player Aurelien Collin holds the MLS Cup after defeating Real Salt Lake in the MLS Cup final soccer match in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
Colin E. Braley/Associated Press

All of the news during the Major League Soccer offseason has been about the big spenders, but there is one team who haven't made any headlines this offseason and are favored to win the 2014 MLS Cup.

Defending champion Sporting Kansas City have turned into the model of consistency in MLS and are a club that make noise on the pitch, not in the transfer market.

The only major move made by Sporting since their conquest of Real Salt Lake at home on December 7 was a goalkeeping swap that was forced due to the retirement of Jimmy Nielsen.

To replace Nielsen, who was the starting keeper since 2010, Sporting acquired Andy Gruenebaum in a trade with the Columbus Crew

The 31-year-old Gruenebaum will be a solid replacement in net for a team that already boast a strong back four. 

Speaking of that back four, Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler are back and better than ever, while Chance Myers, Seth Sinovic and Ike Opara are also back and ready to a second consecutive championship.

KANSAS CITY, KS - DECEMBER 7:  Benny Feilhaber #10 and Graham Zusi #8 of Sporting Kansas City celebrate after winning the MLS Cup Final against the Real Salt Lake at Sporting Park on December 7, 2013 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Up front, Sporting possess one of the midfield gems of the United States men's national team in Graham Zusi, who is one of the top playmakers in the league despite not getting as much attention as the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan receive.

Zusi is not the only productive member of the Sporting midfield, as the roster contains plenty of workhorses in Benny Feilhaber, Oriol Rosell and new addition Sal Zizzo. 

The midfield fleet also does not have to worry about overworking themselves in front of goal due to the presence of Claudio Bieler, who was one of the top acquisitions in the league last offseason. 

The 29-year-old from Argentina scored 10 goals in 25 games in 2013 and is expected to put up a similar tally in 2014.

Behind Bieler on the depth chart are a group of capable forwards led by C.J. Sapong and Soony Saad that will be able to take the pressure off the Argentinian if he faces a goalscoring drought. 

On top of all that, Sporting possess one of the most underrated soccer minds in all of America in Peter Vermes. 

While the likes of Bob Bradley and Jason Kreis have received international recognition, and as Mike Petke continues to receive praise with the Red Bulls, Vermes just gets on with things and does his job the right way. 

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

His name is one that must be brought into consideration the next time the national team comes up because of his superb resume that includes two Eastern Conference championships, a U.S. Open Cup, and of course the 2013 MLS Cup title. 

Vermes is a master at handling his squad, and he has built a deep roster that will see almost everyone on it contribute at some point during the season. 

A winner of the MLS Cup as a player and manager, the 47-year-old is one of the main reasons why Zusi and Besler have turned into consistent first-team players for the United States, while others like Saad and former forward Kei Kamara are regular names on their national-team rosters as well. 

With a lineup that features a plethora of talent, a manager that knows how to get the best out of his players, and a championship pedigree, there is no reason why Sporting Kansas City shouldn't be the favorite to win the 2014 MLS Cup.

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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