Nearly halfway through the MLS season, Head Coach Peter Vermes has Sporting Kansas City on top of the Western Conference with 25 points from 15 games (7-4-4), with a rate of 1.67 points per game, which is 2nd in the West to FC Dallas. At the moment, that all important home-field advantage in the playoffs is in vogue for a team that has faltered in the first-round of the playoffs for three years running, losing out playing as visitors.
Yet, his charges have been shutout on the road six times in eight matches, and their 19 goals scored are good for only fourth in the conference.
In addition, depth at center back continues to be a question to some, especially at the moment with Captain Matt Besler with the U.S. National Team for its upcoming World Cup qualifying matches, backup Kevin Ellis out indefinitely with a quad strain, and memories of Ike Opara’s past injuries still on the mind. But 22-year-old center back, Amer Didic recently signed a Sporting contract after being a stalwart with the 2nd team, Swope Park Rangers, for added depth.
Lastly, Vermes himself has been pushing the goal-scoring by committee idea, but the question is, does the current squad have the talent to get goals from various sources consistently? Is 26 shots and no goals in a 1-0 loss at Colorado good enough to keep this team in the upper echelon of the conference and gain that vital home-field advantage? And what about scoring on set pieces? It has yet to happen in 2017.
Remedies to those questions, and others, could come in MLS’s Secondary Transfer Window (where teams can request the transfer certificate of a player under contract in another country) that opens in a bit more than a month on July 10 and runs through August 9. And Vermes says Sporting Kansas City will be active, with a caveat.
“Yes, we are going to try and be active in this window,” said Vermes. “Whether we are or not, it’s hard to say.”
What Vermes means, is it’s a complicated process, and one that Sporting KC’s brass put much effort into to find the right fit.
“We are always active every window. The thing that we don’t do is we don’t chase situations. So it’s always got to be a good situation that fits the team financially [and in the] quality and character of the person that we are bringing in, because we like to think that what rules the day is our culture,” Vermes stated. “And we are going to make sure that the people we bring in are going to fit into that culture. And if they don’t, then we won’t pursue that person anymore.”
When asked if any areas of the field would be a focus as they look at players, the head man was cagey as he responded, “both offensively and defensively”
One rumor that has circulated is the idea that forward Krisztain Nemeth was interested in returning after jettisoning for Al-Ghafar in Qatar before the 2016 season. During his sole season with Sporting Kansas City, the Hungarian revealed his strong finishing abilities, scoring 16 goals across all competitions (second to Dom Dwyer) and helping the team win the 2015 U.S. Open Cup. His late season, knifing and feinting through the defense, game-winning goal at Portland Timbers was voted MLS Goal of the Year.
Nemeth, or a player like him, would add a dimension to the attack that could help break down opposing defenses on the wing as a great complement to Gerso on the other wing and Dwyer up top. Nemeth’s strike rate ranks third in all-time Sporting players to don the jersey and play significant minutes behind Dwyer and 2000 Danish import Miklos Molnar.
Addressing the rumor, Vermes said, “I haven’t talked to anybody in his camp. I’ve heard that [rumor] many times. I think he actually wanted to come back when he left. But we’ll see where that goes. I really haven’t talked to anybody.”
Adding to a squad that is successful and weighing what could tilt the team forward, or possibly backwards, is a challenging task. Vermes and his staff will do their homework, just like they did on Gerso, Ilie Sanchez, and Latif Blessing, among other positive additions to the roster in 2017.
“It’s a combination of things. It’s not an easy code to crack when you are looking for somebody,” said Vermes. “But we want to make sure that whoever we bring in is solid.”
The next few matches will give further insight to what Sporting Kansas City needs to maintain a hold on that critical home-field advantage for the playoffs, and who Vermes and his staff may pull the trigger on obtaining.
It’s time for Erik Palmer-Brown “to make an impact” for Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City head coach looking forward to 20-year-old’s return
Sporting Kansas City’s long-time highly-rated young center back is returning to the side after a successful stint with the U.S. U-20s at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the Korea Republic. The U-20s were eliminated in a 2-1 extra-time loss to Venezuela on Sunday.
Erik Palmer-Brown captained the U-20s to the quarterfinals of the tournament playing all 480 minutes at center back, a place where Sporting KC could use some depth with team captain and starting center back Matt Besler a likely frequent call-in to the senior U.S. Men’s team that will be active throughout the summer, a current injury to backup Kevin Ellis, and a heavy game schedule with Sporting Kansas City entering the annual U.S. Open Cup tournament on June 14 as they host Minnesota United.
The homegrown Palmer-Brown earned many plaudits for his play and has gained the attention of many international clubs throughout his career. Last season, Palmer-Brown was loaned to FC Porto in Portugal where he played 17 games for FC Porto B, helping the club win the LigaPro title.
Sporting KC Head Coach Peter Vermes is ready for his prodigy’s return.
“Eric has had an incredible experience the last couple of times that he’s played with the U-20s. I’m glad that all has went well and everything, and it’s a shame they got knocked out,” Vermes said. “But I’m also glad that he’s returning to us because it’s time for him to start making his progress here with the team.”
Since joining Sporting Kansas City in 2013, Palmer-Brown’s appearances have been spotty. He has accumulated only 10 appearances and six starts, low totals for someone so sought after and praised.
Vermes, and fans alike, are ready to see what Palmer-Brown can do in MLS.
“Last year, he went to Portugal, now he’s back. He’s with the U-20s, now he’s back. So now that he’s back, he needs to get in a rhythm because these are now all opportunities in front of us with all the international play of guys [and the U.S. Open Cup games], he could be playing,” said Vermes. “It’s time for him to get back here and get into a rhythm with us and start making an impact.”