Yesterday, Sporting Kansas City traded center back/defensive midfielder, Lawrence Olum, to the Portland Timbers. This could be the first of several moves for Sporting KC as the preseason moves on. With the signing of Soony Saad earlier in the week, the team now have as many as 11 forwards on the roster. Over-correction? Time will tell. But today, let’s think what the Olum trade means.
There is an Open Roster Spot
The first and easiest thing to see is that there is suddenly an open roster spot. The team now has 27 players signed up for the 2017 season (26 if you consider Diego Rubio is injured he apparently won’t count against the total until he returns).
Who fills that open spot?
Well, the most obvious answer is 2017 1st Round MLS SuperDraft pick, Colton Storm. He is unsigned and currently with the club for preseason in Tucson, Arizona. Storm’s primary position is at right back, but Peter Vermes states that he can play on the left.
Outside of Storm, the next best guess is that Sporting add another midfielder. With Olum gone, they lost a potential midfielder (though realistically, he was probably third behind Soni Mustivar and Ilie Sanchez). What the team really needs is depth for Benny Feilhaber. That could be anybody, or it could be Kevin Oliveira from the Swope Park Rangers. As preseason goes on, an answer to this question should come.
Erik Palmer-Brown is Ready
It’s really hard to foresee Vermes getting rid of Olum without him thinking that EPB is ready to be in the center back rotation. Palmer-Brown has spent the last year or so with Porto playing for their B-Team. In that time he helped them win their first second division championship. Vermes seems to be pretty high on EPB’s maturation:
“He definitely has matured in both his game on the field and also off the field. He is very determined on what he wants. He’s very determined on what he wants to do as a player. You can see it in the way he trains and the way he plays with the group. It’s been very good.”
SKC are an Injury Away from Kevin Ellis Starting
I know I just said Vermes trusts in EPB, but it’s likely he’ll be gone for the U-20 World Cup. That will entail going to qualifying games as well as the tournament itself (if the United States qualify). That means Sporting KC are an Ike Opara injury away from Matt Belser and Kevin Ellis starting a lot of games together. I’m not trying to hate on Kevin Ellis, but he just hasn’t proven he can be a full-time starter in MLS. He seems good for spot duty and is a nice piece to have as a backup.
Now, we are all hoping that Ike Opara’s injury woes are behind him. He made a record 25 appearances last season (with 16 starts). The previous two seasons only saw nine total appearances (and eight starts). His previous year was his best before 2016 when Opara made 18 appearances (and 15 starts). If he can stay healthy, it’s a moot point. If.
SKC may have Fleeced Portland
The compensation to acquire 32-year-old Lawrence Olum was $50,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and a 2018 1st Round SuperDraft pick. Previously it was thought the minimum amount of GAM that could be traded was $75,000 but clearly that isn’t the case. My guess is $50,000 is the minimum now.
As for the 1st Round Pick, that could have real value. In 2016, Portland were set to pick 10th but they actually flipped that pick for the 4th overall pick and ended up with Jeremy Ebobisse who many thought was the best player in this years draft.
Let’s pretend for a minute Portland still finishes in a position that gives them the 10th pick. Sporting did recently blow at 10th pick (Connor Hallisey in 2015), though they got Saad Abdul-Salaam with the very next pick. Going back a little further, real value can be had at the 10th slot. In 2012, the Columbus Crew selected Ethan Finlay. In 2011, Sporting picked CJ Sapong (who actually eventually got traded for that Hallisey pick).
To say Portland got fleeced is probably a bit harsh. They get depth at a position they are in great need of. Olum actually is return to Portland, where he played in 2007 and 2008, before the Timbers were in MLS. Much like Chance Myers heading to Portland fans probably wish them the best as long as they aren’t playing Kansas City.