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Khiry Shelton to Head Overseas Instead of Re-Signing with Sporting KC

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SKC’s main center forward (in minutes played) has turned down an offer to stay with the team.

MLS: Columbus Crew at Sporting KC Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

After just one season in Kansas City, Khiry Shelton will look to head “overseas.” The KC Star is reporting that while Sporting Kansas City offered him a new contract after his expired at the end of the year, Khiry is electing to leave the club instead.

It isn’t currently known where he will land overseas, but one would have to think Europe would be the target. Khiry grew up on multiple military bases and travelled the world to places like Germany, so that could be a landing spot. It’s hard to imagine him breaking into the Bundesliga but perhaps he could land on a 2.Bundesliga club.

“He’s had a dream of always playing in Europe,” SKC manager Peter Vermes reportedly told the KC Star. “From everything I understand, and I’ll let him speak more on it, he has an opportunity, and that’s what he’s going to pursue in the short term.”

Khiry came to SKC last offseason in a trade with New York City FC in exchange for right back Saad Abdul-Salaam. SAS subsequently spent a good portion of 2018 on loan to USL Championship side, Phoenix Rising FC.

Shelton was the primary starting striker for Sporting KC in 2018. He had the most minutes and starts of his four year Major League Soccer career with 15 starts (20 appearances) and 1,370 minutes played. All that while dealing with a knee surgery that caused him to miss several months of the season. Because Sporting KC made him an offer to stay with the team that he declined, they will retain his MLS rights. If he later desires to return to America another team would have to trade with SKC to obtain his rights or he could rejoin the club.

Throughout the year he fought for the starting spot at CF, primarily with Diego Rubio. The debate raged on all year as to who should be starting and Shelton finally appeared to hit his stride in the lead up to the playoffs before he went cold in both playoff starts. It would have been interesting to see if more time in Peter Vermes’ vaunted 4-3-3 system could have led to greater results.

Instead Sporting KC are now left with two center forwards on the roster. Diego Rubio had eight goals in the regular season with just nine starts (20 appearances — 781 minutes) and he added two more goals in the playoffs. And Krisztian Nemeth, who joined the team late and produced just one goal in four starts (nine appearances). Both players are under contract through 2019.

Despite lots of hate for Shelton in his style of play and general ability, he was a steal when it comes to salary. He was still on his rookie deal since going 2nd overall in the MLS SuperDraft. He made a paltry $119,745.00 in 2018 and likely would have earned a raise in his new contract. Compare that to Rubio who made $266,875.00 (still a huge steal) and Nemeth who made $1,007,666.67 (much of which was reportedly picked up by the New England Revolution) and it’s easy to see it will be hard to replace his spot for the salary he was being paid.

Which brings everything back to the Designated Player #9 that Sporting KC promised fans after the 2017 season. Technically Nemeth will fall into that category based on his pay, but SKC could potentially buy him or another player down with Allocation Money and sign a new DP.

It is possible that the team could finally be running low on that money with the large raise given to Johnny Russell who nearly doubled his salary from the beginning to the end of 2018. Not to mention there are now nine players on the roster who earn above the league maximum (Felipe Gutierrez, Russell, Nemeth, Andreu Fontas, Roger Espinoza, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Yohan Croizet and Gerso Fernandes). Plus Daniel Salloi is deserving of a raise.

As for if Vermes is looking to add a striker, it’s unclear. “I feel comfortable with the position,” Vermes said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m closed off. If I have the ability to improve the team, no matter what the position is, if it makes sense for us, I’m going to do it.” That hardly sounds like a sure thing, though I imagine they were surprised when he didn’t re-sign. Maybe a Gutierrez type player — except a CF — will fall into their lap. I doubt SKC will make big proclamations about adding anyone and will quietly go about their business.

The team also declined the option on Kharlton Belmar, who played striker in a US Open Cup game for Sporting last season. The main option from the Swope Park Rangers who could move up is Hadji Barry, who primarily played on the wing but did get some center forward time. He’s out of contract and it’s unknown if SPR offered him a new deal. He set a team record for goals last year, but would be considered depth and unlikely to start.

This isn’t the last time we’ll talk strikers this offseason I’m sure. Stick with The Blue Testament as the offseason schedule heats up next week right after MLS Cup ends.