When Sporting Kansas City picked up defender Frankie Hejduk in the December re-entry draft, it was thought that the long-time MLS veteran would serve as quality depth behind starting rightback Michael Harrington. Hejduk almost straight away said he wouldn't play for Sporting KC, and was then dealt to Los Angeles Galaxy in exchange for defender/midfielder Luke Sassano, who the Galaxy had selected from New York Red Bulls.
Sassano, returning from 2010 ankle surgery which saw him miss all but three games last year, was signed to a short two-month contract by Sporting which expired at the end of March. This deal was agreed upon by both sides, with intent on Sassano's part to prove that he would be able to fully recover from the operation and be signed for the remainder of the 2011 season.
Following the weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Sporting KC technical director/head coach Peter Vermes revealed that Sassano's option for the remainder of the season had been picked up. "Yes, he has been fully signed," Vermes told The Daily Wiz, "and he's a great guy who is finally almost fully healthy." Just how far along in his recovery is he, though, Coach? "He's at about 85 percent, I would say," Vermes went on to share.
The development of Sassano's fitness and availability looks to be a huge coup for Sporting heading into the month of June, as centerback Shavar Thomas and holding midfielders Craig Rocastle and Stephane Auvray are all set to join their respective national teams for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Along with each of those positions, Sassano can capably fill in at left- and rightback, as well.
In fact, his impact could be felt as soon as Wednesday night's US Open Cup qualifying game against New England Revolution, given the fact that Thomas and Auvray have already left Kansas City to join their national team camps ahead of the regional competition, according to Vermes. Rocastle will join his Grenada national teammates in Los Angeles on June 3. Sassano figures to be the fourth centerback on the depth chart in the event that either starter Matt Besler or Aurelien Collin are injured, forcing Julio Cesar Santos onto the field. He also looks to be either first- or second-choice holding midfielder once Rocastle departs, with Birahim Diop being the other option.