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The Best of Both Worlds - 2014 Beer-view: Sporting KC

With Major League Soccer and the rest of American soccer kicking off in just over a week we've curated an impressive list of players, personalities, broadcasters, front office folk, and fans to have them tell us (and you) about their upcoming 2014 season.

And, of course, pair their hopes and dreams for this season with a tasty local brew.

That's not just a preview... it's a "beer-view".

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By: Scott Hollister

Team: Sporting Kansas City

Coach: Peter Vermes

Is he the right man for the job?

Oh, absolutely. An MLS Cup title last season, plus Eastern Conference and U.S. Open Cup crowns the year before that proves as much. With apologies to guys like Bruce Arena and Dominic Kinnear, who won’t be seeing unemployment lines anytime soon, Vermes may have more job security than any other manager in the league heading into the 2014 season.

Player(s) to watch?

Goalkeepers Eric Kronberg and Andy Gruenebaum will be the most closely watched players as Sporting KC defends its MLS Cup title as the team looks to fill the shoes of now-retired team captain Jimmy Nielsen (who is managing Oklahoma City Energy FC, Sporting KC’s USL Pro affiliate). Kronberg has been a loyal soldier since being drafted by Kansas City in 2006 and appears to have the upper hand in the race for the starting job, but Gruenebaum, a Kansas City native who the team acquired from Columbus Crew in the off-season, will also get his shot. There should be plenty of playing time for both considering Sporting’s duties in both the CONCACAF Champions League and the U.S. Open Cup, in addition to MLS play.

Whoever is in goal will have the luxury of playing behind the league’s stingiest defense. The re-signing of right back Chance Myers in late January means that entire back line — left back Seth Sinovic and center backs Matt Besler and Aurellen Collin — returns to anchor Sporting’s defense in 2014.

Despite last season’s successes, Sporting KC struggled to develop a consistent scoring threat up top. Will designated player Claudio Bieler fulfill the promise he showed early last season in 2014? How about Dom Dwyer? Will wing players like C.J. Sapong and Soony Saad become consistent threats? With a busy schedule ahead of them all of them are likely to get plenty of chances to impress.

Photo Credit: By The Pint

Predictions for 2014?

You can’t be the champ unless you beat the champ, so until further notice, Sporting KC is your preseason MLS Cup favorite. It won’t be easy — the East figures to be rugged again with improved sides in New York, Chicago, Houston, New England and obviously Toronto, and the West should be loaded with LA, Portland, Seattle and Real Salt Lake — but Sporting returns almost the exact same side that won last year’s title. With another year of experience under their belts it’s their championship to lose.

Local Beer Pairing:

Kansas City is lucky to have Boulevard Brewing Co. in its own backyard. One of the most prolific and creative craft brewers in the country, Boulevard and Sporting KC have followed similar paths to success. You can’t go wrong with any of their offerings, but the most appropriate pairing with the local 11 has to be Boulevard’s Long Strange Tripel, a hearty and potent (9.2% ABV) Belgian tripel that is a part of their Smokestack Series of special brews. Considering the team’s own long, strange trek from league afterthought playing in a minor-league baseball stadium to model franchise playing in the finest soccer-specific stadium in the country and collecting trophies for fun (get it? You know, LONG STRANGE TRIPEL and long, strange … oh, never mind), the fit between beer and team couldn’t be more perfect. #GoSporting

Tags: Beer, Major League Soccer, The Best of Both Worlds

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