Taking in the match between Swope Park Rangers and PDL's FC Tucson this past Saturday, I was treated to a glimpse of what can and should be a rather dangerous offense this year.
The USL side of Sporting Kansas City has, in its very first preseason, assembled a formidable strike duo in Dane Kelly and Kris Tyrpak. At only 25, Kelly is the all-time leading career goalscorer in the USL, with 42 tallies in his five seasons with the Charleston Battery. The fearsome striker also won a USL championship with the Battery in 2012.
Tyrpak was a bright spot on an Austin Aztex team that had a difficult first season in the USL, sharing the team lead in goals with nine. Before that, the 23-year-old Texan was unlucky to be drafted by Chivas USA just months prior to that club's exit from MLS.
They are joined by 18-year-old Nansel Selbol, a talented Nigerian youth international who was recently the scoring leader on SKC's U-18 academy team.
Each is individually gifted, but the preseason rust and unfamiliarity with each other was evident throughout their Desert Diamond Cup match Saturday. Numerous promising attacks were foiled by the Tucson defense in or around the box, due to various absences of communication or, in the case of Selbol, attempting to take on every defender 1v1. Given his record in the youth ranks this past year, he is probably accustomed to converting those chances.
Eventually, Tucson's luck ran out when Kelly and Selbol pounced on a defensive breakdown, and Kelly put the ball calmly into the net. With some more time on the pitch together over the coming months, the goal was surely a preview of things to come.
Tyrpak showed well in a four-game stint with the San Antonio Scorpions of the NASL at the end of 2015, recording two goals, but signing with an MLS-owned USL club puts a player directly under the eye of coaches who can tap him to the next level. For the humble Tyrpak though, playing well enough to help his mates to a title is job one. About joining the Kansas City organization he said, "It's huge. At this point I'm just focused on getting minutes, doing as best I can with this team, winning a championship with this team, then if opportunities present themselves at the end of the season, I'll be ready for them."
What clubs do you think will be strong up front? Leave a comment below!