It seems like with every Wednesday in January comes another grand wave of Sporting Kansas City offseason news leading up to the 2011 Major League Soccer season - which is now just 54 days from MLS First Kick by the way. Wednesday the 19th has been no different, and it's only just past lunchtime.
According to Andrew Wiebe, Sporting KC beat writer for MLSsoccer.com, this afternoon on Twitter, defender Michael Harrington, who the team reported had agreed to a new contract for 2011 last week, has apparently officially signed the new deal, the league has it in hand, and according to technical director/head coach Peter Vermes, "he's done."
In 2010, Harrington counted for just under $80,000 against the team salary cap. It is unknown, and likely to stay that way until the league's players union releases 2011 salary numbers later in the year, the dollar figure to which Harrington has agreed to, but really, after his (in my mind) League Best XI performance in 2010, whatever it is, it's worth it to keep him in the squad another year.
Re-signing Harrington was undoubtedly a number one or two offseason priority, outside of the obvious new player signings. He was, by many accounts, the most consistent player from game 1 to 30 in 2010. Securing him for 2011 will go a long way to stabilizing the backline in June, a time where SKC could be without not only Shavar Thomas, but possibly also Roger Espinoza, whose Honduran homeland qualified for the CONCACAF Gold Cup this week.
Expect Wiebe to have something up on the league site later today or tonight, which will assuredly have additional information on his latest conversation with Peter Vermes.
Also announced on Wednesday by the team was the 2011 preseason exhibition schedule. Previously announced was the preseason training schedule, which will see the players report to Kansas City Monday the 24th for entry physicals, followed by four days of training in KC before departing to Phoenix, AZ, where the team will train for a little more than a month.
Date Opponent Time Location Saturday, February 5 Columbus Crew 10 am Phoenix, AZ Wednesday, February 9 Inter-Squad 10 am Phoenix, AZ Saturday, February 12 Colorado Rapids 10 am Phoenix, AZ Tuesday, February 15 Houston Dynamo 10 am Phoenix, AZ Saturday, February 26 Portland Timbers 11 am Phoenix, AZ Friday, March 4 Phoenix PDL 7 pm Tucson, AZ Saturday March 5 New York Red Bulls 7 pm Tucson, AZ
There was an (apparently) unfounded rumor a week or so ago that Sporting KC would be partaking in a preseason tournament with Portland Timbers, Los Angeles Galaxy and Montreal Impact, but alas it seems that is not to be the case. There is absolutely nothing set in stone yet, but I'm looking into spending a week or so in Arizona while the team is in camp. Beyond being able to cover the team and provide you all with first hand information, do I really need another reason to escape KC in February for Arizona? So, hopefully that works out.
The other bit of news on Wednesday was that Wiebe said the previously agreed upon friendly with Chivas Guadelejara, which was part of the deal to sign Omar Bravo as the team's designated player this winter, is tenatively planned to take place sometime during the team's preseason schedule.
If you remember, the two clubs agreed to play a home-and-home set of friendlies in 2011, not only as part of the player's signing, but also to show off each team's respective new stadium. Chivas opened up their brand new 50,000 seat Estadio Omnilife in 2010, and as you all know, SKC will open their brand new soccer-specific stadium on June 9 against Chicago Fire.
Wiebe also said that Bravo would play a half for Chivas, and a half for SKC - much like Javier Hernandez did last summer when Manchester United played the Mexican club as part of his signing with his new English team. Wiebe also said that the friendly was NOT official yet. It was announced last year, though, when SKC agreed to loan Bravo back to Chivas for the remainder of their 2010 fall season.
So, assuming the Chivas friendly happens, that will be seven exhibition games (outside SKC's own squad) for the preseason, which would be a good number of minutes for Peter Vermes to see a number of trialists and new signings, which he said could be expected after the first of February.
There are still a few questions to be answered of playing time and starters at a handful of positions, but that is something we'll look more into in the coming weeks as the season gets closer and some of these guys have had a chance to make their case.