Yesterday Sporting Kansas City announced that they were making 12 roster moves. As we detailed, they picked up the options for Saad Abdul-Salaam, Benji Joya, Jimmy Medranda, Lawrence Olum and Seth Sinovic. Sporting chose not to exercise the options for Ever Alvarado, Emmanuel Appiah, Connor Hallisey, Jon Kempin and Justin Mapp. In addition six other players are out of contract. Those players are Nuno Andre Coelho, Kevin Ellis, Jacob Peterson, Alec Kann, Chance Myers and Paulo Nagamura (Kann and Ellis are currently in negotiations).
As if often the case when a roster is in flux, people are concerned. Whether their favorite player got picked up or a fan favorite is suddenly out of contract, fans tend to panic. In the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic!”
First, let’s look at who is under contract by position for the 2017 season. Each player with a (S) next to their name is a likely starter (feel free to disagree with my assessment).
Goalkeepers: Tim Melia (S)
Defenders: Matt Besler (S), Jimmy Medranda (S), Saad Abdul-Salaam (S), Ike Opara (S), Erik Palmer-Brown, Lawrence Olum, Seth Sinovic
Midfielders: Benny Feilhaber (S), Roger Espinoza (S), Soni Mustivar (S), Benji Joya
Forward: Dom Dwyer (S), Graham Zusi (S), Cameron Porter, Daniel Salloi, Diego Rubio
As you can see there aren’t enough starters to fill out a roster. I listed Opara as a starter but likely there will be another signing there is Coelho isn’t brought back. In fact, there are only 17 players under contract while MLS roster rules allow 28 players. I think it’s safe to say Kevin Ellis and Alec Kann will come to deals. I imagine other players not under contract may as well, but players like EPB may end up getting sold still (he is on loan with Porto with an option to buy). Let’s move forward with there being about 10 open roster spots.
Sporting KC Need Some Wingers!
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Year after year Sporting are looking for help out on the wing. Last season they signed Justin Mapp and traded for Brad Davis. Let’s move past that. Despite Graham Zusi playing winger, it’s arguable there isn’t a single winger on the roster.
The number one priority of the offseason has to be getting a true winger with scoring potential. That will be out of character for Peter Vermes who tends to sign center forwards and then try to convert them. I’m envisioning a Shkëlzen Gashi (Colorado Rapids) type who can actually create from a wide position. That would mean spending some money and signing a new Designated Player and buying down the contract of someone like Zusi. In addition, they need depth at the wing (which we’ll get to in a minute).
The Midfield has Zero Depth
Benji Joya (and arguably Lawrence Olum) are the only midfielders on the roster who aren’t penciled in as starters. The lack of midfield depth would mean there could be a disaster if Feilhaber or Espinoza went down. Joya appears to be set to become Espinoza’s backup, but there is no one to backup Feilhaber and no one good at playing defensive midfielder (sorry Lawrence, stick to CB). Fausto Rossi could be some of that midfield depth.
In addition lots of fans would like to see someone else other than Mustivar play defensive midfielder. He was a lot more inconsistent in 2016, but I’m not sure I can see SKC spending the money on a Uri Rosell type. Another option at midfield (because I can’t let it go) would be a cheaper Jordi Quintilla. There was talk that he was released to avoid paying him his current salary, but he said it himself he’d play for less.
Some of These Guys Will End up on the Swope Park Rangers
For many fans it feels like the end of the line for a few players who didn’t get their options picked up. It seems likely to me some of these guys will get signed to contracts with SPR if they don’t get better offers elsewhere. Connor Hallisey (who I just said we shouldn’t give up on) and Emmanuel Appiah are perfect candidates.
Hallisey played a single game at SPR last year and Appiah spent most of his time there. Appiah was about to be signed to SPR when SKC jumped in. It’s possible it was always in the cards that he’d go down to SPR after the season but the lack of midfield depth necessitated he be signed by the senior team. Jon Kempin is another guy, if he doesn’t have better options, could end up with SPR. He was OK there last season but was starting in front of an ever changing back line.
Some Swope Park Rangers Could Get Senior Contracts
All these open roster spots could be filled by promising young players from the Swope Park Rangers who then would be available to play for SKC in regular season games or loaned back to SPR for further development. Personally, I think any/all of the following could get senior team contracts today. That list includes (in alphabetical order) Oumar Ballo, Amer Didic, Mark Anthony Gonzalez, Tyler Pasher, Ayrton Pinheiro and Kris Tyrpak (I only left Kevin Oliveira and Ualefi off the list because they have torn ACLs).
The problem last year was that when Sporting KC were besieged with injuries they couldn’t “call up” any of these players because of the rules around player loans from USL to MLS. If they are on the MLS roster than can be loaned down to SPR as much as necessary but more importantly they can get first team minutes.
Some of These Guys Will Re-Sign
Last year at this time Sporting had Kempin, Sinovic, Mustivar, Nagamura and Mikey Lopez all out of contract. Only Lopez wasn’t on the team by the time the year started. I imagine players like Jacob Peterson and Paulo Nagamura could come back if the price is right. Naga looks like he’ll be a coach somewhere in the SKC system when he retires but he may be looking for one final pay day as a player. Peterson may be looking to cash in on his career year (six goals and an assist) and Sporting are smart not to overpay him. Even players like Coelho and Myers could be back on reduced salaries. They just cost too much considering how much time they missed with injuries.
On top of the moves made last year at this time, Marcel de Jong and Amobi Okugo were under contract and they didn’t see the start of the season. The offseason is just getting started, there are plenty of moves still to be made.
Sporting KC Just Cleared about $1.9 Million in Salary
With some rough math (and by adding in the retiring Brad Davis) SKC just cleared about $1.9 million in salary off the books (not counting Bernardo Anor who hasn’t been addressed by the team and as far as I know is still on loan with Minnesota United).
$1.9 million can buy you quite a lot in MLS. It’s nearly enough to sign Didier Drogba ($2.2 million, pass) and it’s enough to pay the previously mentioned Shkëlzen Gashi ($1.668 million). Not to mention there are tons of other guys making way less than that (though they are likely underpaid) that Sporting would be lucky to have. Think Ignacio Piatti ($425,000), Joao Plata ($175,000), Ethan Finlay ($250,000), David Accam ($770,938) and so many other players. This cap space should make this team better.
That ball is in your court Peter Vermes. Go spend some money.