With the news coming out recently that the New England Revolution are shopping Krisztian Nemeth, it got us to thinking if Sporting Kansas City should pursue that trade. After all, they are in need of goals and in his limited time in KC he scored goals.
To debate this subject, we have two writers each take one position. First, Mike Kuhn will take the “don’t trade for Nemeth” position then Chad Smith (me!) will try to argue for a trade to be made.
Mike Kuhn: Don’t Trade for Nemeth
Krisztian Nemeth was a very good player during his season in KC; he was key in winning the 2015 US Open Cup as well as key in KC’s run in the 2015 season. That said, it isn’t time to go through bringing in another retread to KC, it’s time to get fresh blood. The second thing I want to make clear is that I still feel that KC needs to add a new striker to this team to be able to compete in MLS, I just don’t think that new striker should be Nemeth.
Another reason why KC shouldn’t sign Nemeth is because despite his success here during his first stint, he was never expected to be the primary goal scorer for Kansas City. During the 2015 season, Nemeth was a secondary goal scorer to Dom Dwyer on that Sporting KC team. A return to this team and with the players currently in the team, Nemeth would be expected to be the primary goal scorer. Teams would be mainly focused on him in game planning shutting down KC’s attack.
Part of Nemeth’s success here the first time came because teams were so focused on stopping Dwyer that Nemeth was able to come in from the wing and find success. A return to KC would very likely see him slotted centrally and be the focus on KC’s offense, receiving balls from Johnny Russell, Yohan Croizet, Felipe Gutierrez, etc. Teams will be specifically game planning to shut down Nemeth and the distribution in to him.
Think back to KC’s match on the weekend against New York City FC which gave me another reason why Nemeth wouldn’t be a good fit for KC at this point. KC attempted 24 crosses against NYCFC in their 2-0 loss. 24! KC didn’t have a single person in their front line who was 6’ tall, Nemeth according to his bio isn’t either [Editor: Wikipedia has him at 5’11”]. And unlike Dwyer, who while not the biggest player could physically match up in the air with a number center backs, Nemeth isn’t particularly known for his ability in the air. If KC continues to play crosses into the box at the rate that they did against NYCFC, Nemeth wouldn’t get the service that he needs to be successful. Vermes has talked about the team’s formation and style flexibility that they have this year, but years of history with him as coach have left me at the point where I’ll believe that change is coming when I see it.
Another reason why I wouldn’t bring Nemeth in is because looking at the stats, Nemeth over performed in his single season here. Nemeth scored 10 goals and added six assists in league play some pretty good numbers for the Hungarian, especially given his xG and xA for the season were much lower, just 6.48 and 2.33 respectively. Meanwhile, KC’s xG for the team as a whole is much lower, over the course of last season, KC’s xG was 50.05, 10 goals more than KC actually scored in the 2017 season, 2016 was only a little better with KC scoring seven fewer goals than their xG of 49.34. KC traditionally under-performs in the expected goals category [Editor: per Matt Doyle it’s four straight years of that] and expecting a single player to change that fortune isn’t going to happen. In fact, the more likely thing to happen is that Nemeth’s goal and assist output falls more in line with his xG and xA output.
Finally let’s just not forget that no GMs like to work with the Revolution in terms of trades.
Chad Smith: Trade for Nemeth
I have the advantage of getting to read Mike’s takes and reply. The problem is, he’s made a very compelling case as for why I wouldn’t want to make that trade. Despite that, I’ll take what is likely to be the more popular position (especially with casual fans) and say SKC should go make this trade if the parameters are right.
First, a couple of caveats. Nemeth has to be healthy. He missed a portion of the preseason (returning against Sporting) and he wasn’t even in the 18 on opening day. Now, the reason for not being in the 18 could be because the Revs are trying to trade him. That would make sense. If he’s hurt or generally unhealthy (as he was a lot before coming to Sporting), then that’s a ‘no go’ for me.
The second caveat is money. How much do the Revs want for him and how much will he be paid. One would assume he’s making at or slightly above what he made for New England in 2017, which is reported at $654,867. That’s below Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and likely Felipe. I’d pay that.
But as for what the Revs want for him, it could be a ton. Mike points out that Mike Burns, the GM for the Revolution, is hard to work with. Burns gave up $200K in TAM, $200K in GAM and an international roster spot (which SKC just traded one for $100K in GAM) to go from 2nd to 1st in the Allocation Rankings. What some are forgetting is the Revs traded $175,000 in GAM to go from 5th to 2nd (though it looks like they get back $175,000 in some sort of GAM/TAM split). Regardless, they’ll get back less because GAM is worth more than TAM. It’s complicated, but I previously broke it down here.
The TL;DR for that is, are the Revs asking for $500,000 + for Nemeth? If so, I think Peter Vermes balks because he’s all about a deal. That said, they are still flush in cash and it would appease the fan base. If the Revs are desperate enough, they’ll give some sort of discount.
Now let’s counter some of Mike’s points. First, Nemeth won’t score as much. This is entirely possible, but I’d argue that he was playing out of position and still doing quite well. The evolution of Sporting KC over the last 18 months to a more technical side fits Nemeth very well. He’s basically been a center forward with great touch and control most of his career. When healthy, he puts up great numbers. Also, his ability to play on the wing should actually add value in case SKC add another Designated Player at the #9 spot in the summer window. Now you have a scoring threat on the wing and at CF.
Second, Nemeth not getting on the end of all those crosses. That’s possibly true. He seems very comfortable with the ball at his feet and has scored a lot of goals with his feet (though he’s put in quite a few with his head too). The bigger counter to this is that Sporting aren’t going to keep sending in 24 crosses a game. That’s abnormally high and likely was partially a by-product of players who hadn’t played together much trying to make something happen. Then again, he did do this against Sporting in the preseason (even if it was called back for offside).
About the xG and xA. If those numbers are correct, he definitely out-performed them. In Qatar, admittedly a worse league, he scored a goal every-other game. Exactly what one wants from their leading goal scorer. In his one season in KC, his goals per 90 minutes was 0.44. Darn close for someone playing out of position. In extremely limited minutes for the Revs, he’s right at 0.50 goals per 90.
Something else Mike isn’t factoring in, and possibly rightly so, is that Nemeth coming back will make fans happy. Ultimately, Sporting KC are a business and they are trying to sell tickets/merchandise/etc. in addition to winning games. Not that one should just throw TAM/GAM away, but Nemeth was brilliant for SKC once and could be again. As mentioned above, if he isn’t the answer, the move likely doesn’t preclude SKC from another move.
And if any of those points aren’t weighty enough, let’s not forget this moment of magic.
So basically, if you are only using your head, you are probably going with Mike. But if you use your heart, Chad has a case.