One story that just won’t go away for Sporting Kansas City is the quest for a striker. Dom Dwyer departed the club in the summer of 2017 (and not a second too soon based on his media day appearance) and his expected replacement may or may not have been Diego Rubio. In limited minutes in 2018, Rubio starred. But then in December, Rubio was unexpectedly traded to the Colorado Rapids in a three-way trade that involved Sporting KC receiving Kelyn Rowe and $300,000 in general allocation money.
Shortly after the Rubio trade, The Blue Testament asked about another player coming in and Peter Vermes responded, “We are close. I’m not trying to make a prediction here but there is a good chance there might be one other addition but that will probably come a little later. No way before Christmas and probably into the new year. If it does it will probably be in mid-January or into February. Outside of that we have almost finalized our roster.”
Later on in that same interview Vermes said, “[the addition] would most likely be another number 9.”
When TBT followed-up on the status of that signing last week to see if there was any progress, Vermes had this to say in response.
“I would say, ‘Not yet.’ It is not something that we are heavily pursuing. We are not killing ourselves to get something done. It’s more that we are being very patient,” said Vermes. “We want to make sure that if we do add something, that it has to be right in all ways. We are not in a rush. We feel that we have a good roster to be able to do the things we want to do.”
When looking at the two quotes it left me confused. It went from “we are close” to “It’s not something that we are heavily pursuing.” It makes one think that maybe a potentially target fell through. It could be for any number of reasons but it happens all the time. Because we were confused on the quotes, The Blue Testament asked Vermes for clarification. We read the above quotes and asked what changed.
“I never said that we were heavily pursuing anything back then,” Vermes said. “All I said was that there is one other position that we’re looking at. What we are not is, we are not in a rush to get it done. We are going to make sure when we bring that player in, it’s the right fit for us. In all aspects. Player-wise, personality, financial, all of those things.
This answer was given during a media call after the first preseason game. I was at the facility but no other reporters were, so we were all on a call together. When I asked the question, I unfortunately couldn’t hear the answer due to airplanes constantly flying over the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex (thankfully TBT recorded the call). Hearing it after the fact, you notice he doesn’t deny that something was close, simply that he didn’t say it was being heavily pursued back then. I interpret that as they tried, it didn’t work out, so they moved on to the next target. But that’s just my take.
Vermes continued, “We don’t feel it’s a must at the moment, we just have the opportunity and the if you will the cap and everything else is in a place where we could add this other player and we’ll work towards that.
“It’s not like we’re dying. Right now we feel good with the team that we have but we will at some point make an addition. Unless something changes, something happens in the short term, I would expect that to be more around the summer window or next season. I’m not ruling out something could happen now as well because things change. Especially with the (inaudible) transfer window, a lot of things happen. I don’t feel like we need to make that move because I feel like we have a strong enough team at the moment.”
The rest of the quote seems to indicate there may be no addition before the season starts, though Vermes is not ruling it out. For me, this parallels the Felipe Gutierrez signing of 2018. The team had already brought in Yohan Croizet to essentially replace Benny Feilhaber at attacking midfielder. They paid a transfer fee which made him a DP. Then Felipe, who the team had reportedly been scouting for years, fell in to their laps. Of course they had to sign Gutierrez, and even with his injuries, he had a pretty great year. Croizet was then forced to be used as a winger, center forward and backup midfielder because if you are SKC, you can’t pass on a free transfer of Gutierrez.
If the “Felipe Gutierrez of strikers” falls into Sporting’s collective laps, they will sign him. There is no doubt in my mind. Whether that’s on a free transfer like Gutierrez or with a transfer fee, if a player they believe fits “player-wise, personality, financial, all of those things,” becomes available, Sporting will do it.
When you think about a “financial” fit, they already have a Designated Player level salary at center forward in Krisztian Nemeth. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to have two players with wages that high at that spot, though, by our math, they can buy down another player and add a new DP.
For me, the bigger issue is does the potential player fit personality wise, since culture is so important to Vermes. On top of that, do they fit “player-wise,” which I would interpret to mean if the player fits the system. Sporting KC have a style they want to play and anyone they add needs to fit into that style.
Now that Nemeth is healthy, Vermes has made it clear that he expects Nemeth will thrive in Sporting’s 4-3-3 system at center forward. With him returning to practice next week, we may catch our first glimpse.