Sporting Kansas City finished the 2016 season at 13-13-8, and as you would expect from a team with a .500 record, 2016 was a study in up-and-down form.
Sporting came out of the gates flying, taking four wins from five games, then backed that up with a seven-game winless run. But Children's Mercy Park was a fortress for the club throughout the year. Ten wins at home with just four losses helped offset poor form on the road to help Sporting Kansas City land one of the Western Conference playoff spots, sneaking in as the fifth seed.
A return to title form proved elusive as the side ran into the red-hot Seattle Sounders in the knockout round and lost to a dramatic late header from Nelson Valdez.
The return of the core squad should bode well for Sporting in 2017, as should the signing of a designated player who should help bolster an attack that only outscored three MLS teams last season.
How did Sporting Kansas City perform in 2016?
2016 finish: Fifth in Western Conference (8-8-13), eliminated in the knockout round
The up-and-down form saw Sporting Kansas City make the playoffs as the fifth seed, but the knockout round match in Seattle would be the club's last game of the season after a 1-0 loss.
Sporting Kansas City's key offseason losses
In terms of core pieces, Sporting Kansas City comes back pretty well in tact, with very few really key contributors out the door. Brad Davis, one of the all-time MLS greats, hung up his boots, as did Paulo Nagamura, and Lawrence Olum was traded to the Portland Timbers.
All three players were contributors to the team, but were mostly options off the bench and spot starters. Forward Jacob Peterson may be the biggest loss in terms of production, having racked up six goals in 21 league appearances.
Sporting Kansas City's key offseason additions
Gerso Fernandes is the biggest move of the offseason, coming in as a designated player who will add more punch to the attack. Fernandes brings with him a load of experience from Portugal and the ability to play multiple positions across the front line.
Ilie Sanchez is also an interesting addition for the club. Having come up as a professional with Barcelona's B team, the midfielder also spent time with 1860 Munich and could end up being a very valuable player if he can settle into the midfield. Soony Saad returning to the club should also be a welcome sight to SKC fans as well.
How will Sporting Kansas City line up in 2017?
You get the feeling that there are several spots up for grabs, and the versatility of the player pool could see any number of players moved off these spots. For now, we give Fernandes and Sanchez nods in the starting side. Fernandes fits a need for the club on the wing, and Sanchez has the pedigree to be an upgrade as a defensive midfielder.
Where Graham Zusi actually lines up is somewhat of a question, as are a couple of the places along the back line. Jimmy Medranda could easily work his way into the XI as a fullback or in the midfield, and Soni Mustivar has a claim in the midfield as well.
Full Sporting Kansas City roster entering the 2017 season
Goalkeepers: Andrew Dykstra, Tim Melia, Adrian Zendejas
Defenders: Saad Abdul-Salaam, Matt Besler, Kevin Ellis, Igor Juliao, Jimmy Medranda, Ike Opara, Erik Palmer-Brown, Tyler Pasher, Seth Sinovic
Midfielders: Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Benji Joya, Soni Mustivar, Tyler Pasher, Ilie Sanchez, Graham Zusi
Forwards: Latif Blessing, Dom Dwyer, Gerso Fernandes, Cameron Iwasa, Cameron Porter, Diego Rubio, Soony Saad, Daniel Salloi, Christian Volesky
Sporting Kansas City's national TV schedule
Toronto FC vs. Sporting Kansas City - Friday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1
Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids - Sunday, Apris 9, at 7 p.m ET on FS1
Minnesota United vs. Sporting Kansas City - Sunday, May 7, at 1:30 p.m ET on FS1
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Sporting Kansas City - Saturday, May 20, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United - Saturday, June 3, at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers - Saturday, July 1 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Sporting Kansas City vs. Atlanta United - Sunday, Aug. 6 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1
Columbus Crew vs. Sporting Kansas City - Sunday, Sept. 10, at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
Sporting Kansas City vs. LA Galaxy - Sunday, Sept. 24, at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, Sept. 30, at 9 p.m. ET on TSN