In an interview with Paul Tenorio of The Athletic, Peter Vermes drops quite a few juicy bits of information that just can’t be overlooked. We break them down and try to add some context for all the Sporting Kansas City fans.
Five Failed Striker Deals
In the last seven years, Peter Vermes has found five different strikers he wanted to bring to Sporting Kansas City. Five times he “presented a center forward to his ownership group as the club’s top target. Five times, the signing fell apart” according to The Athletic.
“Whether at the end it was with the player or with the club, we couldn’t get to an agreement and they backed out,” Vermes said, “or we backed out because we just weren’t willing to make that investment.”
You may recall hearing about two of these stories last season. Mike Illig, one of the co-owners of the team (and son of Cliff Illig) “nixed” the deal to bring in a striker in 2018. In 2019 the team thought they had a Premier League striker ready to join but “at the eleventh hour, a team in another league swooped in. ‘Going to bed that night, I thought it was a done deal,’ Illig said.”
PV Re-Evaluated Everything within SKC
As we’ve been saying around The Blue Testament since the season ended prematurely by missing the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, the offseason is going to be long. And it has been. It’s been 104 days since Sporting KC lost to FC Dallas in the final game of the season. The 2020 regular season doesn’t start for another six weeks. The team just reported back to KC with travel to Arizona set for Sunday.
During this long-stretch of what could have been inactivity, “Vermes used the time to evaluate everything within the organization. He did deep dives into player recruitment, into the medical staff and into the processes the team had built throughout the organization.”
“Every process you can think of,” Vermes said.
Apparently the club flew all their scouts in from all around the world to sit down and strategize together. In addition, Vermes met with every player one-on-one.
“Not too Old to Compete”
To use Paul Tenorio’s words, “the veteran coach was confident his team is not too old to compete in MLS. While the core may be aging — stalwarts Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza are 33, while Matt Besler will turn 33 in February — Vermes felt other factors were more to blame for the failures of 2019.”
“The guys here still have a lot to give,” he said.
Those won’t be comforting words for fans and pundits looking for Sporting KC to completely overhaul their roster. Honestly, a complete overhaul never felt that likely. We knew last year that the core group of players — Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez, Johnny Russell, Tim Melia and others — were signed to long-term deals. Espinoza and Besler through 2020. Zusi, Russell, Gutierrez and Ilie Sanchez through 2021. Andreu Fontas through 2022. And now Tim Melia has signed an extension through 2022 as well.
The 2020 version of the roster isn’t all that different than the 2019 version outside of Designated Player signing Alan Pulido and the return of Forward Khiry Shelton. The only other player who may be asked to contribute heavily is relatively unknown CB signing Roberto Puncec. Overall the team has only added five players since the end of the season (here is a complete recap of all the additions and subtractions).
That would seem to imply that the same players who failed to perform (or were injured) for much of 2019 will be asked to step up again but with better results. That or, as Peter Vermes recently promised, more signings are coming and one would suspect they are going to be expected to start (could Gadi Kinda, a rumored midfield signing, be one of them?). Are Pulido, Puncec and an unknown midfielder enough to turn the tide?
I have my doubts. Maybe some of the youth are expected to player bigger roles too (Gianluca Busio, Jaylin Lindsey). We should know pretty soon.
Tenorio’s interview Peter Vermes included a lot more topics like thoughts on expansion, Designated Players, Targeted Allocation Money, the playoff format, leagues rules and the CBA. It’s well worth a read. And it’s probably weird to say, but you should probably subscribe as their soccer (and other coverage) is outstanding.