On Thursday, Major League Soccer and Sporting Kansas City fans were shocked to find out hated rival Brad Davis of the Houston Dynamo would wear Sporting’s blue and blue in 2016. With the trade compensation just being a 2017 second round pick, a 2018 third round pick, and future considerations, it looks to be a cheap purchase for SKC.
We’ve already dealt with the struggle between our head knowing he’s a good player and our heart knowing we hated him in Dynamo Orange. We’ve also pondered how he will fit in with the man that punched him in the face during the 2015 season, Roger Espinoza. But where will Davis actually line up on the field.
Starter or Off the Bench?
First and foremost, should Davis be a starter or coming off the bench? He is a 14 year MLS veteran (which means he’ll be a free agent at the end of this season since he’s out of contract) and since 2008 he has started no fewer than 25 games (2014).
According to the MLS Players Union, he made $400,000 in 2015. On top of that, he’s third all-time in MLS in assists, and has one of the best left foots in all of MLS. On top of that, he’s probably the best player in the league from set-pieces (which should mean the end to Graham Zusi taking them, and hopefully Davis just splits time with Benny Feilhaber).
Based on all of the above, until Davis’ age (34) catches up with him, he’s a starter. But where does he fit in?
Midfielder or Winger?
Brad Davis has basically always lined up on the left side of the field. It only makes sense with his cultured left foot. Now, Houston typically lined up in a variation of a 4-4-2, with Davis playing the left midfielder role.
However, when Houston uses a 4-3-3, Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes preferred formation, Davis still lined up in the midfield, just slightly more centrally, though still often out wide left. It would seem based on that, Davis will join the crowded midfield of Sporting Kansas City.
The problem with that is, we already have three great starters at midfield. Feilhaber, Espinoza, and Soni Mustivar. However, Mustivar is still not under contract, despite Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman saying he thinks it will get done, but that was back on December 24th and still we’ve heard nothing.
If Mustivar is not back, then there is the possibility that Feilhaber could play deeper in the midfield, allowing Espinoza to fulfill his box-to-box role and Davis to be the more attacking player of the three. I’m personally not for this as Feilhaber played fine in that role, but the offense struggled until he moved forward in the central attacking midfielder role.
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Why Not Play Davis Out of Position?
If Soni Mustivar does get resigned, the midfield of Mustivar, Espinoza and Feilhaber is quite good and I’m not for altering it by inserting Davis. That really only leaves one logical spot for Brad Davis, winger. The problem there is that the left winger role was filled by Krisztian Nemeth in 2015 and absolutely no one wants to see him taken out of the game.
Peter Vermes is known to play guys out of position, but Davis isn’t the guy to move. Davis should be on the left to deliver balls into Dom Dwyer and company. Instead, Nemeth is already out of position on the left (he’s a center forward, and we have one of those in Dwyer), so just keep him out of position and move him to the right winger.
A move to the right would then leave Graham Zusi without a home. A month ago, before all this news had even come out, some were suggesting Zusi’s time with Sporting KC was at an end. He’s overpaid, under produced, and simply has no home in the lineup. That’s even more true now.
Zusi really should be playing the role Benny Feilhaber plays, but why do that when you have Benny Feilhaber. Zusi could fill in for Roger Espinoza, but the box-to-box role doesn’t especially fit his skills and he definitely isn’t a defensive midfielder.
I know it’s blasphemy in Kansas City to refer to Zusi as anything but a soccer god, but it might be the most logical fit to have Zusi coming off the bench. Though there is one other option.
What About Playing Left Back?
It seems crazy to think Brad Davis could play left back, but I did just say Vermes likes to play people out of position. Also, the 4-3-3 formation calls for the fullbacks to come way forward up the field. That would still allow Davis to serve in balls to his new teammates. I can’t count how many times one of the other left backs from 2015 was up the field and just couldn’t deliver a good final ball in.
Now, of all the positions on the roster, Sporting KC have the most players who played left back. In 2015, five separate players lined up there: Seth Sinovic, Marcel de Jong, Amadou Dia, Saad Abdul-Salaam, and Jimmy Medranda.
Now I expect Medranda and maybe even Dia to get most of their minutes from the Swope Park Rangers in 2015, so that’s only three left backs in Davis’ way. That being said, if Davis can play that role, it might be an even better fit for the team. It keeps Zusi on the field and adds an attacking presence at left back. With Besler playing the left center back role, Davis would have good cover for getting forward.
So look at the image above and tell me that doesn’t look like a dream line-up? That leaves great depth off the bench in new acquisition Justin Mapp for the winger spot. We also have last years mid-season acquisition Jordi Quintilla able to fill in at midfield. Our potential first round pick (if it’s a CF) coming in for Dom. Then a combination of Sinovic, Abdul-Salaam, Ellis, and Erik Palmer-Brown on the back line.
I don’t know about you, but that feels like an MLS Cup winning line up. No pressure guys.
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