Over the last two days, some TBT scribes have converged on Pinnacle – which the new training headquarters for Sporting Kansas City is a part of – to check it out and speak with Manager Peter Vermes and some players.
Here are some of the more interesting tidbits:
Of free agent Brad Evans presence at training…
Evans, the former Seattle lynchpin who owns 27 US caps, is working out with the team this week and will journey with Sporting Kansas City to Arizona on Friday for phase two of training in Scottsdale and Tucson that will include four matches in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup.
“Brad’s a free agent. He’s coming off a [back] injury from when he was in Seattle. But he’s a player I’ve known for a long time, spent a lot of time with him in leading up to the 2005 U-20 World Championship. I’ve always had a good relationship with him,” said Vermes of the 32-year-old defender/midfielder. “We are going to see if he can get back to full strength. If he can, I think he can be really useful for our club. He’s an incredible competitor. He’s a great team guy. It doesn’t hurt to add those things. But both he and we want to make sure that he’s able to give what he can based on health. So far, so good.”
When Johnny Russell?
Signed from Derby County for an approximate $350,000 transfer fee, the Scottish winger will be in Arizona. Today was his P-1 Visa appointment, and it should only be a matter of getting his paperwork done after that. He should join Sporting KC by the end of week or the very early part of next week.
Does Sporting Kansas City have the “right” roster at this point?
Signficant (in minutes played) Players departed – Latif Blessing (F), Soni Mustivar (MF), Saad Abdul-Salaam (B), Erik Palmer-Brown (B), Benny Feilhaber (MF) (Likely soon – Kevin Ellis (B) and Soony Saad (F))
Significant (in profile) Players added – Yohan Croizet (MF, DP), Khiry Shelton (F), Emiliano Amor (B), Johnny Russell (F), Felipe Gutierrez (DP, MF)
“We’re getting there. We still have some more work to do. At the same time, some other things happened in these last two weeks that we were down in Arizona that were impressive to me in certain positions,” said Vermes, not wanting to get into specifics. “There is a faster progression in certain areas that I didn’t think would come along as fast as they have and certain guys that have come to the team. That’s good. But we are still on the search. We’re still working on a couple things. If they happen, great. They could happen still within the window or it might take until the summer, but we are still working on a couple of other things.”
He continued, assumedly about the #9 that the team is on the hunt for. “We’re searching for the right player. What happens in this business these days is that because of the [transfer] windows [acquisitions] are magnified at that moment. If you are signing players, everyone is really happy. But you are only happy because you signed players, but you don’t know really what you are getting. For us, we are really interested to know what we are getting in signing somebody. We are going to make sure that when we sign somebody that they are right for us. I can’t say we are going to be 10 for 10 [in making the right signings], but we put a lot more effort into making sure that the person fits in the way that we want to do things. We want to make sure that we get the right person who wants to be here, that fits into our system, financially it makes sense, and culturally as well.”
With the incredible new training center and the signing of two new designated players, Sporting Club seems to be stepping up their game. Do these things motivate the players?
“It all goes hand-in-hand. Everyone knows how the last handful of years has gone come playoff time, so when you get facilities like this, when you have the players that we are signing, expectations are rising and rising,” stated reigning MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara. “Your margin of error for excuses and whatever you want to say are decreasing, and rightfully so. It’s on us to provide and do what we need to do come postseason time.”
It is 26 days until Sporting Kansas City hosts NYCFC at Children’s Mercy Park (6:30pm kickoff). It will be interesting to see how Vermes and Co. mold the team – expect more formational diversity – and how it comes together.