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It Happens Every Year, Who gets Cut by July 1st?

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Sporting Kansas City has a history of making cuts.

Sporting Kansas City v Philadelphia Union: 2015 U.S. Open Cup - Final Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

We don’t fully understand it, but something happens on July 1st of every MLS season. It’s the date at which semi-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed. At least in the last six years, one player gets cut every season in late June. In 2017 it was Igor Juliao. In 2016 many Sporting fans — including myself — were shocked when Jordi Quintilla (pictured above) was released. The list goes on and on. In 2015, James Ansu Rogers. In 2014, Alex Martinez. In 2013, Yann Songo’o and in 2012 it was Luke Sassano (currently the Technical Director for MLS Expansion club FC Cincinnati).

You get the idea. In recent history, someone always gets released, though it’s not usually a player that is likely to make that big of an impact. In the case of Quintilla and Juliao, they were fan favorites, but they didn’t necessarily have a future and weren’t getting of a ton of minutes (though definitely more in Jordi’s case).

We at The Blue Testament were trying to figure out who that person could be in 2018. There are some complicating factors. First, we have no idea who is on a semi-guaranteed contract. Additionally, we have a lot more contract information available to us about the 2018 roster than we did about prior years due to MLS’ new-found transparency. Let’s take a look at the current 28-players on the roster with their contract expiration dates and option years.

Sporting KC Roster

Name Position Status Joined Contract Expiration Option Years
Name Position Status Joined Contract Expiration Option Years
Matt Besler CB 1/15/2009 2018 None
Graham Zusi RB 1/15/2009 2018 None
Seth Sinovic LB 11/28/2011 2018 None
Ike Opara CB 12/12/2012 2019 2020
Jimmy Medranda CM 8/9/2013 2019 2020
Tim Melia GK 12/23/2014 2020 None
Roger Espinoza CM DP 1/6/2015 2018 None
Daniel Salloi LW INT-HG 1/13/2016 2019 2020, 2021
Diego Rubio CF 3/8/2016 2018 2019
Adrian Zendejas GK 12/2/2016 2018 2019, 2020
Gerso Fernandes RW 1/4/2017 2019 2020
Ilie Sanchez CDM 1/13/2017 2018 2019
Colton Storm RB 1/13/2017 2018 2019, 2020
Amer Didic CB 5/31/2017 2018 2019, 2020
Cristian Lobato LB INT 6/29/2017 2018 2019
Gianluca Busio FWD HG 8/25/2017 2020 2021, 2022
Kharlton Belmar FWD 9/15/2017 2018 2019, 2020
Khiry Shelton FWD 12/14/2017 2018 Unknown
Yohan Croizet CAM INT-DP 12/15/2017 2020 2021
Jaylin Lindsey RB HG 1/1/2018 2021 2022
Emiliano Amor CB INT 1/18/2018 2018 Option to Buy
Matt Lewis CB HG 1/22/2018 2018 2019, 2020, 2021
Johnny Russell LW INT 1/31/2018 2020 2021
Felipe Gutierrez CM INT-DP 2/6/2018 2020 2021
Eric Dick GK 2/15/2018 2018 2019, 2020, 2021
Graham Smith CB 2/15/2018 2018 2019, 2020, 2021
Brad Evans RB 2/20/2018 2018 2019
Kuzain CDM HG 4/13/2018 2020 2021, 2022

We don’t know for sure, but it would seem anyone with a contract that expires after the 2018 season ends would be less worth cutting because there would be either no savings, or limited savings. Our understanding of the rules of the league are that if a player is under contract that is through the end of the year, they are paid whether they are with the team or not. However, maybe that’s where the semi-guarantee comes in and cutting a player who’s deal expires at the end of 2018 now would save half a years salary. We simply don’t know because the MLS Roster Rules don’t really state it.

If we just look at players who’s contracts run beyond 2018 there are shockingly few players on the roster (not counting players with option years that Sporting Kansas City could just decline). That list is: Ike Opara, Jimmy Medranda, Tim Melia, Daniel Salloi, Gerso Fernandes, Gianluca Busio, Yohan Croizet, Jaylin Lindsey, Johnny Russell, Felipe Gutierrez and Kuzain. Looking at that list, outside of maybe Croizet (who is quickly winning our hearts with golazos), all those players seem like they’d be worth keeping (to be clear — I’m not advocating for cutting Croizet, his production versus salary has just been out of whack so far).

So let’s assume that if a player is cut before July 1st, the team doesn’t have to pay them for the rest of the year. Most of the big salaried players are regular starters (Roger Espinoza, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Ilie Sanchez).

In the new higher paying MLS, no one else really has a “huge” salary. Looking at the 2018 salary data, the next highest players not listed above are Emiliano Amor ($274,375), Diego Rubio ($266,875), Cristian Lobato ($240,000), Brad Evans ($200,000), Seth Sinovic ($157,666) and Khiry Shelton ($119,745).

The name that jumps out is Brad Evans. He has been recovering from injury and has subsequently picked up new injuries. When he’s played with the Swope Park Rangers (he’s yet to play for Sporting KC) he’s been between bad and okay (maybe he was still hurt).

Cases could be made for Rubio, Amor and Lobato. Rubio barely gets on the field (though he has two goals). I’d rather sell him on for a fee (assuming there is a DP striker coming) than release him for free. Amor has played limited minutes and is on loan like Juliao last year, but he’s good depth for Besler/Opara in case of injuries. And Lobato has suddenly become a jack-of-all-trades being depth at lots of positions. Plus, Peter Vermes “figured something out” about Lobato and thinks he has unlocked his potential.

If it’s not Evans that leads us to the bottom of the roster. There are only four players to never appear for Sporting KC in a game. Eric Dick (who is this year’s first round SuperDraft pick), Graham Smith (who is also a first rounder this year), Colton Storm (last year’s first round pick) and Matt Lewis (a Homegrown signing from this season). Dick is likely safe. Smith has played a ton for Swope Park and Storm really has too.

Even though Storm has lots of Swope Park minutes, a case could still be made that he’s the guy to go. He’s third on the depth chart at right back behind Zusi and 18-year-old Lindsey. All three left backs are currently injured, yet Vermes is playing Lindsey there instead of Storm who has limited LB minutes with SPR (as opposed to Lindsey who had never played LB professionally until being inserted late against Minnesota United). Personally, he makes so little and there are so many injuries, release Storm seems unlikely.

The last guy is Matt Lewis. He and Zach Wright signed to Homegrown deals before the 2018 MLS season. Wright was promptly cut. Lewis has gone on to play very limited minutes with the Rangers and if there is going to be a cut, he seems a likely candidate.

We at TBT want to stress, we have no idea if anyone will be cut in 2018. It’s just a trend we’ve noticed over prior years. There isn’t currently a need to clear roster spots. There are at minimum two open roster spots and an open international slot (two once Salloi gets his green card). There could be three roster spots if a SKC player stays on loan with SPR all season (so far Lewis and Smith have).

If you make me rank the likely candidates (which you didn’t), here is my Top 3 in order:

  1. Matt Lewis
  2. Brad Evans
  3. Colton Storm

I’d definitely keep Storm. Lewis definitely won’t get any SKC minutes this year. And if Evans can’t get healthy, he won’t either. Though his locker room presence and veteran leadership are certainly worth something. If nothing, this story has reminder casual fans that there are 28 players on the roster, despite not all of them getting on the field (or even into the 18) for Sporting KC.