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Sporting Kansas City on cusp of adding new international blood

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Asst. Coach Kerry Zavagnin: Negotiations are “pretty far along”.

MLS: Western Conference Knockout Round-Sporting KC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City is on the cusp of signing a few more “pieces” to their squad via the international market in the coming weeks.

And it is about time for fans who are itching to know how the team will raise its goal production to match the high bar of its MLS-leading defense and push the team deeper into the playoffs after four straight seasons of first round exits.

“It’s crazy season right now. The competition in signing players is getting more difficult and the quality of players coming into this league is better,” said Assistant Coach Kerry Zavagnin. “From where we sit right now – we’ve made some really bold moves in the last six months or so with [high-scoring forward] Dom [Dwyer] going to Orlando and now [midfield playmaker] Benny [Feilhaber going to LAFC] (two keys players that have had a lot of success in our club). We have moved on and are looking to bring new blood in.”

With Dwyer and Feilhaber’s exit an influx of General and Targeted Allocation money has flooded in and the loss of their salaries has opened room in the $3,845,000 salary cap. Offseason personnel acquisitions have been highlighted by trading reserve right back Saad Abdul Salaam to New York Football Club for forward Khiry Shelton and signing French midfielder Yohan Croizet to a designated-player contract in a transfer from Belgian side KV Mechelen.

And even though Zavagnin stated, “If we had to field a starting eleven right now, we would feel pretty comfortable that we have a starting eleven now” he added that “There are a few key names on the table that we are pretty far along with. I would expect sometime soon that we will be adding more pieces to our team.”

In November, Zavagnin, Manager Peter Vermes’ longest term right-hand man, took a trip to Spain to observe a few players (as did Director of Player Personnel Brian Bliss in the summer window). Additionally, Sporting KC has an active scout in Lisbon, Portugal. “That’s two areas of Europe that we’ve been more heavily invested in. They are pockets that we know very well and have identified as sources of players that will fit well within our team,” said Zavagnin.

In the ever-changing and ever-more competitive players market, negotiations are always difficult.

“[Negotiations] are so fluid. It depends on what moment you ask,” Zavagnin chuckled. “In five minutes we could be knee-deep in a conversation and be far along, and in the next five minutes it’s completely off the table. It’s been more fluid than in recent memory.”

Inside MLS, talks of high profile attackers Justin Meram and Ola Kamara of Columbus Crew SC and Lee Nguyen of New England Revolution asking to be traded have surfaced. However, though Zavagnin admitted some interest, he revealed, “We haven’t spent much time recently talking about trades within the league. Right now, we are focused on the draft and our international acquisitions.”

As Zavagnin alluded to, another aspect of roster improvement – the MLS Superdraft – beckons as technical directors and coaches head to Orlando, Florida, for the annual player combine (January 11-17) and subsequent draft in Philadelphia, slated for January 19.

According to Zavagnin, Sporting Kansas City is in no rush to finalize any signings before the draft.

He reiterated, “In terms of adding to the roster, we are going to see some improvement with some new additions in the coming weeks.”

Look for more from Zavagnin in the transcript of a far-reaching interview soon at thebluetestament.com